European Committee of Social Rights declares levels of benefits in the UK are ‘manifestly inadequate’

January 2014

European Social Charter

European Committee of Social Rights

Conclusions XX

-2 (2013)


17.   Article 12 .Right to social security

Paragraph 1    Existence of a social security system    ……………….

19.     Conclusion

The Committee  concludes that the situation in United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article12§1 of the Charter on the ground that:

the minimum levels of short-term and long-term incapacity benefit is manifestly inadequate;

the minimum level of state pension is manifestly inadequate;

the minimum level of job seeker’s allowance is manifestly inadequate

read the entire report from the European Commission of Social Rights here:

So what stopped you from killing yourself, then?

I accompanied someone to an Atos assessment today. His documentation mentioned that he had suicidal thoughts. The assessor asked a series of very probing questions that I was very uncomfortable with. He wanted to know what actual actions my friend was planning when he thought of suicide, how and where his suicide attempts were made, what stopped him from going through with it, what he was thinking about, why he was so depressed. The upside of this was that after 20 minutes of this the assessor said he had enough evidence and did not need to ask about my friend’s other conditions. I am hoping there was enough there to get him put straight into the support group, where he needs to be. But I am very concerned now about his state of mind after the assessment.

In cases like this a person is being put at immediate risk by talking about things that are very distressing to someone that is not even a mental health practitioner, or they will not get the benefit that they need. Should I have intervened and challenged the young man asking these questions, and run the risk that my friend would fail the assessment because he had not convinced the assessor? I’d greatly appreciate people’s comments on this.


Going private? My reply to a job offer from a private health company

Originally posted on MUCK:

What the heck is this? I’ve been trying and failing to stop the government from privatising the National Health Service for years, and now a private healthcare company has contacted me about a job!

The email from Care UK says they are “seeking a Media Relations Executive for our Head Office based in Colchester and your skills and experience appear to be a good match.” Huh? They are offering a “competitive salary, 25 days holiday and corporate discounts.”

Here’s what I have replied:

Dear Laura,

Thank you for your unexpected email about the Media Relations Executive job with Care UK. I am very interested. Since Care UK is possibly the leading private healthcare company making inroads into the NHS, I would relish the opportunity to publicise what it does – indeed, this is precisely what I was trying to do in my previous job as information officer for Keep Our…

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Food, clothes, transport, beds, ovens: the aid schools are giving UK pupils

Headteachers are breaking the rules to feed children and their families because they say they cannot ignore the signs of poverty


Fiona Gittings, a headteacher in a large primary school in the south of England, is talking about a child whose mother was recently refused asylum. The family was homeless and had been moved from place to place. Finally, they were put in a hostel so far from the school that transport costs were prohibitive. “Being in a hostel was terrifying and utterly unsuitable for the children,” says Gittings. “Carrying on coming to this school, where he was well settled, was so important for that child – it was the only stability he had.”

So Gittings dipped into an emergency fund she has created to pay for a bus pass for both mother and child. She set up the fund a few months ago with £500 of her school budget, £500 from her parent-teacher association and £500 from the church. She knows she can’t continue to pay for their travel though: one adult and one child bus pass for a month comes to about £100. So eventually the child may be forced to move to a new school.

It’s not the first time Gittings has helped poor families out. “This mum had no money – she was literally begging and borrowing to pay for two bus rides across the city to get her child to school. I told her to ask me if she needed help. She’s desperate and she was utterly mortified, but I am so proud that she felt she could come to me.”

But bus passes are the least of it. Gittings lists other recent payments she has made from the emergency fund: new bunks for two children when their beds were destroyed in a domestic violence incident; £12 to a mum heading to court who thought she’d have to pay for a non-molestation order (she brought the money back); a bed, a table and a chair for a boy living with his dad where there was no furniture other than a sofa in the flat. Then there’s £30 to £50 food money every few weeks to a “very proud” grandmother looking after a young boy. “I couldn’t trust the mum not to shove it up her arm, but the nan I could.”

Read the rest of this article here:


You must do your JSA jobsearch online, even though we know you can’t

This is from

…………….Eddie must go to the jobcentre every fortnight to sign on and to show that he’s searched for at least 14 jobs. This post will show you how difficult and pointless this jobsearch exercise is for him. One of Eddie’s main problems is his struggle to read and write. He can write letters out if people tell him which ones to choose (for example, he asked me how to spell “Customer Service Advisor” when applying for one job, then wrote it as I spelled it out), but has trouble with more complex words. He also finds computers challenging. He doesn’t have a computer at home, which means that he rarely uses one. He wasn’t sure what a browser was when I took my laptop around to his flat to help him with his jobsearch (you’ll see some of this in the videos below).

Nonetheless, a couple of weeks ago, Eddie’s jobcentre adviser instructed him to choose and apply for at least three jobs online as part of his fortnightly quota………..

Read what happened next in the full article on Kate Belgrave’s blog here:

Benefit sanctions often to blame for increase in food thefts, says police commissioner

GOVERNMENT ministers in denial over links between benefit changes and shoplifting must “wake up and smell the coffee,” according to a North-East police commissioner.

Durham police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg has raised concerns over benefit changes and sanctions leading to an increase in poverty, with people often committing offences simply to live. Mr Hogg said the rising demand for food banks is evidence enough to show the impact austerity measures have had on those struggling to make ends meet.

 Speaking during a visit to the Food Store at King’s Church, in Whessoe Road, Darlington, he said: “If they have been sanctioned for 13 weeks, how are they supposed to feed themselves? What greater evidence do they need?The fact that we need food banks is disgraceful, but what they are doing here is fantastic. It cannot be right that so many families in a town like Darlington are relying on this just to feed their family.


Read the rest of this article here:


Bedroom Tax: Desperate man jailed after ‘booby trapping’ home to stop bailiffs evicting him

Michael Hilton planted gas cannisters and petrol around his home in Church when a bailiff went round to evict him due to bedroom tax arrears.


A desperate man who ‘booby trapped’ his home after bailiffs came round to evict him over failure to pay £900 Bedroom Tax arrears has been jailed.

Michael Hilton planted gas cannisters and petrol around his home when a bailiff and antisocial behaviour investigator went round on June 4 this year to evict him.

The 52-year-old barricaded the front door and stairs with items from the house and gas cannisters and covered them with petrol, Burnley Crown Court heard.

Hilton, of Church near Accrington, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to criminal damage and threatening to destroy or damage property and was jailed for 10 months.

Ten police officers and PCSOs, 14 specialist officers and fire crews were called to the scene and were there for around four hours during a ‘stand-off’, the Accrington Observer reports.


From the Mirror, 9th Oct 2014. Read the rest of this story here:


Thanks to DWP incompetence, I risked killing both myself and my unborn child


Rachael Bradley has posted this on the facebook page ‘The People vs The Government, DWP and Atos’

In January of 2012, after a temporary work contract ended, I signed on to Jobseeker’s allowance with my then partner. I sent in everything I was supposed to, and around three weeks later, was told my claim had been approved and was ready to be put into payment. Two weeks later, no payment. We got in touch. “Don’t worry about it, it will be paid in the next three days.”
This went on for ten weeks. By this point we had run out of crisis loans. There were no local food banks in the area, so no food. Our electricity had gone out weeks previous. Our gas had been cut. We were summoned to court and a CCJ for rent arrears was imposed. It got to the point where we were living on one pack of 11p noodles a week. I lost 2 stone in three months. On Mother’s Day, despairing that things would never get better, I took 60 painkillers in an attempt on my life.

It took from January to the 28th of May, when I discovered I was pregnant, before things got moving. I explained I was pregnant and was very curtly told, “Pregnancy is not recognized by the jobcentre until you reach 29 weeks pregnant.”

Two weeks after this, after using local libraries to get some legal advice, I called at 9am on Friday 16th of June, and immediately asked to speak to a manager. I explained the abysmal service and said I had recorded the names of every person I had spoken to. I was very blunt in stating that I planned on suing under The Human Rights Act and they had three hours to provide a solution. Then I hung up. Finally, two hours later, after six months and weighing 3.5 stone less, I received the following text:
“Your claim has been processed and will be in your account within 3 hours. There is no need to call.”

Thanks to their incompetence, I risked killing both myself and my unborn child, now have a Court Judgement for rent arrears, and have fought crippling depression ever since. Please share this as I know I’m not the only one who has suffered the indignation of being treated so poorly because I had the misfortune of being unemployed.