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

Advertisements

Universal Credit: government closer to recognising failure?

cartesian product

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.

(Source: news.wisc.edu)

http://neurosciencestuff.tumblr.com/post/51182976897/brain-can-be-trained-in-compassion

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

Francis-Maude-010

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.”

http://m.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/may/24/universal-credit-danger-failing-whitehall-review

 

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

Vox Political

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