Grant Shapps Is A Lying Bastard – Now That’s Official Too!

the void

Grant ShappsInternet con-man and Tory Party chair Grant Shapps has become the second senior Tory to be accused of misusing benefit statistics by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA)  in just one month.

Iain Duncan Smith was recently subject to a humiliating rebuke from the UK statistics watchdog after lying about the impact of the benefit cap.  Now it’s the turn of former get rich quick scammer Grant Shapps after he claimed that almost one million people had come off sickness and disability benefits rather than undergo the notorious Work Capability Assessment carried out by IT firm Atos.

Shapps’ claim was a shabby attempt to smear those with serious illnesses or disabilities as fraudulent, by attempting to claim hundreds of thousands of people came off benefits rather than face an assessment.  As pointed out by the chair of the UKSA, Andrew Dilnot, the figures Shapps used actually largely related to the number…

View original post 328 more words

DWP: sanctions damaging, unfair, counterproductive. So it does more.


I’ve come across a remarkable document in the last few days – a report commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on its own ‘Skills Conditionality’ pilot, in which it started to mandate training on jobseekers under threat of the sanction (suspension) of their benefit payments. The report was released in 2011, so my apologies if it’s not new information to you – but I haven’t seen or heard of it before, and it’s more relevant than ever.

This report, which you can download in full here, takes a bit of digesting, which is partly why I’ve been a bit quieter than usual the last few days. However, once you get through it, it contains some quite remarkable conclusions – conclusions which the DWP has completely ignored, even though it was it’s own advice to itself.

The most striking conclusions centre around the issuing of ‘sanctions’ –…

View original post 1,328 more words

Universal Credit: government closer to recognising failure?

cartesian product ... stuff about computing mostly

Universal Credit – the amalgamation of various welfare payments into one unified entitlement which will vary in “real time” as claimants’ circumstances change – is at the very heart of the British government‘s plans to reform the welfare state. The idea is that the welfare system will “make work pay”. Once that meant it would have a shallow taper – in other words, the loss of benefit as claimants got work would be reduced: today that aim seems less clearly expressed, but that is another issue I won’t go into here.

Universal Credit is also the world’s biggest ever “agile development” software project and a massive financial and social (and hence political) risk for the government. Unless delivered on time and on budget then the consequences are grave – some of the most vulnerable people in society could be left literally destitute, with all that entails…

View original post 635 more words

Brain can be trained in compassion

Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion — the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.

A new study by researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that adults can be trained to be more compassionate. The report, recently published online in the journal Psychological Science, is the first to investigate whether training adults in compassion can result in greater altruistic behavior and related changes in neural systems underlying compassion.

“Our fundamental question was, ‘Can compassion be trained and learned in adults? Can we become more caring if we practice that mindset?’” says Helen Weng, a graduate student in clinical psychology and lead author of the paper. “Our evidence points to yes.”

In the study, the investigators trained young adults to engage in compassion meditation, an ancient Buddhist technique to increase caring feelings for people who are suffering. In the meditation, participants envisioned a time when someone has suffered and then practiced wishing that his or her suffering was relieved. They repeated phrases to help them focus on compassion such as, “May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and ease.”

Participants practiced with different categories of people, first starting with a loved one, someone whom they easily felt compassion for like a friend or family member. Then, they practiced compassion for themselves and, then, a stranger. Finally, they practiced compassion for someone they actively had conflict with called the “difficult person,” such as a troublesome coworker or roommate.

“It’s kind of like weight training,” Weng says. “Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”

Compassion training was compared to a control group that learned cognitive reappraisal, a technique where people learn to reframe their thoughts to feel less negative. Both groups listened to guided audio instructions over the Internet for 30 minutes per day for two weeks. “We wanted to investigate whether people could begin to change their emotional habits in a relatively short period of time,” says Weng.

The real test of whether compassion could be trained was to see if people would be willing to be more altruistic — even helping people they had never met. The research tested this by asking the participants to play a game in which they were given the opportunity to spend their own money to respond to someone in need (called the “Redistribution Game”). They played the game over the Internet with two anonymous players, the “Dictator” and the “Victim.” They watched as the Dictator shared an unfair amount of money (only $1 out of $10) with the Victim. They then decided how much of their own money to spend (out of $5) in order to equalize the unfair split and redistribute funds from the Dictator to the Victim.

“We found that people trained in compassion were more likely to spend their own money altruistically to help someone who was treated unfairly than those who were trained in cognitive reappraisal,” Weng says.

“We wanted to see what changed inside the brains of people who gave more to someone in need. How are they responding to suffering differently now?” asks Weng. The study measured changes in brain responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after training. In the MRI scanner, participants viewed images depicting human suffering, such as a crying child or a burn victim, and generated feelings of compassion towards the people using their practiced skills. The control group was exposed to the same images, and asked to recast them in a more positive light as in reappraisal.

The researchers measured how much brain activity had changed from the beginning to the end of the training, and found that the people who were the most altruistic after compassion training were the ones who showed the most brain changes when viewing human suffering. They found that activity was increased in the inferior parietal cortex, a region involved in empathy and understanding others. Compassion training also increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the extent to which it communicated with the nucleus accumbens, brain regions involved in emotion regulation and positive emotions.

“People seem to become more sensitive to other people’s suffering, but this is challenging emotionally. They learn to regulate their emotions so that they approach people’s suffering with caring and wanting to help rather than turning away,” explains Weng.

Compassion, like physical and academic skills, appears to be something that is not fixed, but rather can be enhanced with training and practice. “The fact that alterations in brain function were observed after just a total of seven hours of training is remarkable,” explains UW-Madison psychology and psychiatry professor Richard J. Davidson, founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and senior author of the article.

“There are many possible applications of this type of training,” Davidson says. “Compassion and kindness training in schools can help children learn to be attuned to their own emotions as well as those of others, which may decrease bullying. Compassion training also may benefit people who have social challenges such as social anxiety or antisocial behavior.”

Weng is also excited about how compassion training can help the general population. “We studied the effects of this training with healthy participants, which demonstrated that this can help the average person. I would love for more people to access the training and try it for a week or two — what changes do they see in their own lives?”

Both compassion and reappraisal trainings are available on the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds’ website. “I think we are only scratching the surface of how compassion can transform people’s lives,” says Weng.


My thoughts:

I think Mr Cameron and his Government as well as local Governments, media and press would do well to read this because as I see it they are all lacking in any form of compassion, empathy and understanding of their fellow man and is why much of their legislation is all going wrong with an unprecedented number of laws hitting the courts for judicial reviews.

Indeed they have much work to do to put it all right and add a bit of happiness to society.

Universal credit in danger of failing, official Whitehall review says

From The Guardian Society @ , political editor

Major Projects Authority’s performance report on 170 most expensive projects gives flagship scheme same ‘amber-red’ status as Crossrail and HS2


The first official government admission that Iain Duncan Smith‘s flagship plans to remake the welfare state has hit trouble emerged on Friday night when the Cabinet Office‘s review of all major Whitehall projects branded the universal credit programmeas having fallen into “amber-red” status, a category designating a project in danger of failing.

The revelation came as the government for the first time time published the performance of its 170 most expensive and important projects, collectively worth over £350bn. Data has been exempted from only 21 projects in the review by the Major Projects Authority (MPA), where disclosure would damage commercial interests or national security.

Crossrail and HS2, the cross-London and north-south high-speed rail links, have the same amber-red status – as does the Department for Work and Pension’s fraud and error programme, its single-tier state pension reform and its plans to introduce personal independence payments.

Publication led to fierce infighting in Whitehall as government departments disputed their listings and fought to prevent publication. In total eight projects are rated red, 23 are amber-red, 32 are green, 49 amber-green and 58 amber.

The Cabinet Office hailed the publication, saying the MPA’s annual report overturns Whitehall secrecy and will help further improve project delivery. The MPA, acting on behalf of taxpayers, has powers to intervene on failing projects, and its boss David Pitchford admitted civil service control of the projects had not been great.

However, an MPA rating of amber-red will anger the DWP, which has insisted that universal credit is on time and on budget. A soft launch of the scheme started a month ago, but the amber-red rating will raise questions as to whether it will comply with its timetable.

A DWP spokesperson claimed the rating was out of date, but the government said last September that the scheme was on track – an assertion that is now challenged by this MPA report.

The DWP said: “This rating reflects where the project was eight months ago rather than now. Since this September 2012 assessment, the universal credit pathfinder has successfully launched and David Pitchford – the government’s leading expert in major projects – has put in place a strengthened plan and leadership team. We are on course to begin the national rollout of universal credit in October 2013.”

The DWP added “these updates are all part of responsible project management – helping us spot risks in advance and then deal with them. We have used the ongoing MPA reviews to inform our planning as we go”.

Underlining the importance of UC, the MPA said: “Universal credit provides a new single system of means-tested support for working-age people who are in or out of work. It aims to reduce the number of workless households by reducing the financial and administrative barriers to work that exist in the current system of benefits and tax credits, and replacing the complexity of the income-related benefits system with a single payment which supports people to find work, find more work, and find better paid work.”

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, was unrepentant about publication of the progress report, saying: “Major projects need scrutiny and support if we are to succeed in the global race. Publishing this report will transform the management of expensive, important projects and will help hold Whitehall to account.

“I was staggered when I came into government and found a relaxed approach to managing projects worth hundreds of billions of pounds. Problems were swept under the carpet where they festered at the taxpayers’ expense. In many places the civil service lacked project management skills and had a lamentable record of project delivery.

“Since the general election we have got things back on track and are equipping the civil servants with the skills they need. Our new Major Projects Authority has helped save over £1.7bn – that’s £100 per working household. There’s much more to do but thanks to the work of excellent officials we now expect to double the success rate of major projects, compared with the figures from 2010.”


IDS and too many other ministers are having their way by playing ‘fast and loose’ with the facts

Mike Sivier's blog

It seems the Conservative Party is doing exactly as many of us feared, and using the attack in Woolwich on Wednesday to revive its proposals for laws to snoop on the emails and social media communications of law-abiding citizens.

Make no mistake – these powers would not be used for the good of the country, but for repression. And bear in mind that, for a Tory, the law is something that they set, and the poor obey. They think it doesn’t apply to them.

Let’s all remember that these new calls have been prompted by the actions of two men who were already known to – and monitored by – the security services. Monitoring your internet communications would not have made any difference to what happened in such a situation.

You cannot trust the Tories with the facts – all we have to do to prove that is look at…

View original post 1,233 more words

DWP In the Dock Again, This Time Over Benefit Cap

the void

civil-servant-in-the-dockAnother of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reforms is to face a court challenge it has been reported this week.  Four families are to bring a judicial review against the cap on benefits at £500 a week which was recently brought into force in three London boroughs and is due to be extended throughout the UK from July.  The families will argue that the cap is ‘discriminatory and unreasonable’.

This latest legal challenge comes in the same week that the DWP faced a humiliating court defeat over the Atos assessments for sickness and disability benefits – which were ruled to discriminate against people with mental health conditions.  This followed last week’s news that the DWP had lost a tribunal hearing and was ordered to release the names of the companies and charities profiting from workfare schemes.

These are the very same workfare schemes which were ruled unlawful in the Appeal…

View original post 695 more words

Who is worse local or central Government………..

The council are discriminating against me so I have started to blog it and fight back.

Before I came out of work we was paying full council tax on the button every month and little did I know until I researched it after being made redundant that my wife was disregarded and entitled to a 25% discount going right back until 1992 when council tax started due to being a carer so suffix to say we claimed this back and got a refund of 7k

Now ever since being made redundant and claiming council tax benefit we have been hounded with at least 6 different amounts to pay due to constant re assessment indeed it has done my nut in as we never know how much to pay and thus stressed me out no end.

This has continued this year too and we originally had a bill for just over £300 which was inc my wifes 25% discount and the council tax benefit so was happy until 4 weeks later and they phoned up saying they want to reassess and thus requested proof of income when they know what are income is because they are linked to DWP and HMRC and can see everything on the screens in front of them.

Anyway I struggle with all this for reasons I have recently blogged about so I forgot about it all and thus a bill was sent again for the full amount so I emailed them the info they requested only to be sent this:

Dear Mr Carter,

Thank you for your email.

Your claim has been cancelled from 17 February 2013 due to the information not being received within the given time limit.

If you wish to have your claim reinstated, you will need to complete a new claim form and a request a Revision of the Decision to cancel your claim.

Please advise me if you would like a new claim form to be posted to you.


Benefit Assessor
For and On Behalf of
Havant Borough Council

They know I struggle because of an SAH Stroke so why could they not just send the bloody form out as they know I am entitled to benefit and why could they not just reinstate it instead of pissing me about.

Anyway I have just read this:

The severely mentally impaired

2(1)A person shall be disregarded for the purposes of discount on a particular day if—
(a)on the day he is severely mentally impaired;

(b)as regards any period which includes the day he is stated in a certificate of a registered medical practitioner to have been or to be likely to be severely mentally impaired; and

(c)as regards the day he fulfils such conditions as may be prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State.

(2)For the purposes of this paragraph a person is severely mentally impaired if he has a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning (however caused) which appears to be permanent.

(3)The Secretary of State may by order substitute another definition for the definition in sub-paragraph (2) above as for the time being effective for the purposes of this paragraph.

This comes from the Local Government Finance Act 1992 and I think we are in fact entitled to a 50% discount due to my mental disability which would result in about 8k due back to me.

I was going to let this go as I could not be bothered fighting for it but they have wound me up so much these past few years I bloody well am going to claim it back because I have had enough.

SAH Stroke 7th April 1990 so going back to when council tax started in 1992 adds up to a tidy sum


‘Benefit cap’ Judicial review in the High Court

Four vulnerable families have today issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, challenging the ‘benefit cap.’  The benefit cap policy has been imposed in four local authority areas since 15 April 2013 (including Haringey, where one of these families live) and will be rolled out across the country over the summer.  All affected households across the country are due to be capped by 30 September 2013.

The policy involves the ‘capping’ of total household benefits payable to families who do not work sufficient hours to receive Working Tax Credits (usually 16 or 35 hours per week).  The cap is set at £500 per week per household for couples or lone parents (it is £350 per week for single adults).  The Government estimates that it will impact on 56,000 households in the first year alone.  Benefits which are counted towards the calculation of the cap include housing benefit, child benefit, bereavement allowance, carer’s allowance, maternity allowance, severe disablement allowance and widow’s pension. The cap applies regardless of the number of children/ dependents in the family, and so larger families are particularly affected.  Over 80% of households to be affected by the cap include three or more children, and children are nine times more likely to be affected than adults.  The Government accepts that most of those who will be affected are women; approximately half of those who will be affected are disabled; and 40% are ethnic minorities who are likely to have larger family units.

The policy will have devastating effects on these four families.  Two of the families will receive nil for basic subsistence (food, clothes, heating) as their rent exceeds the £500 per week cap.  They will immediately fall into arrears, face eviction and street homelessness.  Two of the families have fled domestic violence in circumstances where they were financially reliant upon their abusive partners, and they risk losing their homes and being unable to feed and clothe their children.

Rebekah Carrier, solicitor at Hopkin Murray Beskine, who acts for all of the Claimants said:

“This is a cruel and misguided policy.  It will have a catastrophic impact on our clients and many thousands more vulnerable children and adults.  They face street homelessness and starvation.

A year ago the Children’s Commissioner warned the Government that these changes would result in a sharp increase in child poverty and homelessness, with a disproportionate impact upon disabled children and children of disabled parents, and some BME groups.  The difficulties now faced by my clients were predictable and avoidable.

The reason for the policy is said to be to encourage people to obtain work but my clients face difficulties in securing employment because they are lone parents with caring responsibilities for babies and toddlers, and disabled adults who have already been recognised as unable to work due to their disabilities.” 

These claims are supported by the charity Women’s Aid.  They have submitted witness evidence in support of the claims, focusing upon the impact upon women and children who have fled domestic violence.


1. Any queries should be directed to Rebekah Carrier, Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors,, telephone 020 7272 1234.

2. The four families are being represented by Rebekah Carrier, solicitor, Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors, and barristers Ian Wise QC and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Doughty Street Chambers.

3. There are eight claimants – one parent and one child from each of the four families.  As many of the claimants are children and two of the women are at risk from their abusive ex husbands their identities are protected and they are referred to by initials only.

4. The judicial review challenges Part 8A of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which was inserted by the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012, SI 2012/2994, pursuant to section 96 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.  The claimants argue that the Regulations are discriminatory and unreasonable.  They also argue that the Secretary of State did not take proper account of the impact of the policy on women, children, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, and carers when formulating the policy.

And so the judgment is handed down…………..

So today a very important judgment was handed down regarding the Work Capability Assessment and those with Mental Health Conditions and no doubt has been a joyous day for many of us including me, so let me explain how this judgment directly affects me.

??????????As many of you will know and this blog is testament too I suffered an SAH Stroke 23 years ago and yes while I have made leaps and bounds in my recovery I will never be the same as I was and thus have various disabling conditions both physically and mentally and in many ways the mental health I suffer affects me the most because it is not there to see and thus people do not understand indeed how could they as it is something very hard to understand if you have not suffered it and yes even to those ministers who put the legislation in place for us mortal citizens to abide too however they have been told enough times so they should at least listen to those that are in the know because it makes a very sad Government indeed if they do not.

My SAH Stroke was on the 7th April 1990 a date pinned to the forefront of my mind and one I will never forget it was a very tragic event and one that I am reminded of so many many times during my recovery and beyond.

My SAH Stroke was long before coiling was devised as a method to stop the bleed and did not arrive here until 1992 some 2 years after my SAH Stroke so the only option open to me was a deep invasive craniotomy and my consultants told me I would be left with various forms of disability both physically and mentally due to the nature of the operation and where the bleed is located but I had to have it done because the only other option was die plus I was only just married and deeply in love with my wife who I could not leave behind.

So the time was set for my operation that took over 8 hours plus 2 months of induced coma following to limit brain activity and reduced the swelling because I did look like a beat up football I am told.

I was left with damage to my frontal and temporal lobes due to blood starvation and thus lack of oxygen which caused a stroke down my right side which was my natural side and thus made the recovery that much harder after 6 months in hospital and much physiotherapy I was sent home with very little support because post stroke care was not like it is today so was left with a few sheets of paper telling me what I must do.

Those sheets of paper meant nothing to me and may of just been blank as I could not relate to them and even my wife found it hard with no back up you see frontal and temporal lobe damage causes various forms of executive dysfunctioning and really should of had the mental health tests to see and diagnose at what levels this part of the brain is affected but I did not and was left in the later years to self diagnose myself via the internet which is no good when you are up against the DWP and/or ATOS and so have very much been stuck between a rock and a hard place.

What are executive functions?

Executive functioning is an umbrella term for many abilities including:

  • Planning and organisation
  • Flexible thinking
  • Monitoring performance
  • Multi-tasking
  • Solving unusual problems
  • Self-awareness
  • Learning rules
  • Social behaviour
  • Making decisions
  • Motivation
  • Initiating appropriate behaviour
  • Inhibiting inappropriate behaviour
  • Controlling emotions
  • Concentrating and taking in information

So as you can see from the above I have been discriminated against and the DWP have failed in their duty under the equalities act 2010 because I struggle with what many take for granted as easy everyday tasks like motivation which many have accused me of laziness, if only that was true as it would be so much easier to put right but the fact is I struggle to understand the importance of things so being left to compile my own evidence to send to the DWP is where I really needed help and the 30 day time limit to return forms is quiet simply no good to me.

Some will say well why did you not get you wife to help you? well the reason their is because she is also tired and knackered because not only does she work part time she also cares for her bedridden mother who is also very poorly and has been for a good few years.

The fact remains that the lazy ones here are the DWP.

My emotions are up and down and quiet often I feel like just throwing in the towel and giving up but no I will not because that is what Cameron et all has done to us and left us to fend for ourselves so I will fight on in getting fair judgment and as for Mr Cameron and his Government well at the end of the local elections I hear him say he has a lot of work to do to win back the electorate, indeed he does starting right here.