Tuesday, 4 June 2013

My Lack Of Principle

It will come back and when it does it will haunt the Shadow Chancellor, but for now- his speech and the briefing to the media released the day before it that contained a pledge to end Winter Fuel Allowances for some wealthy pensioners is already off the News agenda today. It will be forgotten for some time.

Ed Balls has surrendered ground on fundamental keystones of social security which will have lasting consequences, in return for very brief and insubstantial publicity and political advantage. I have written about the Prime Minister, I have written about the Leader of the Official Opposition and to a lesser extent about the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Soon the time will come to write about Edward Balls, because the first purpose of this blog is to probe all the possible reasons for why official policy on social security in Britain is decided. For now though, this announcement started some debate which may have already ended but if it doesn't then I want to be in the middle of it slapping people with a wet fish. These debates have a tendency to be of very low quality, so I don't see how this could be bringing down the tone. Typically they are about 'what is right' or 'what is fair' or 'what gets popular support' as if these things immediately matter.

The first thing that immediately matters but gets overlooked in each of them: 'what is'.

Universalism in social security, like Starfleet's Prime Directive is not just 'a principle' or 'an ideal'. Unlike the Monarchy, they both serve an actual tangible function. The Prime Directive prevents exploitation, particularly covert or complex systems of exploitation. Universalism means that an ill-informed, ambitious or unscrupulous politician can not immediately do terrible malevolent things. I'd rather defend a castle designed like a maze than one that makes sense. However it is by invoking the things that don't make sense that politicians justify their attack on social security- which is why it is so important people understand this maze, what they are defending and use reason and evidence in doing so. The Labour leadership has abandoned reason and evidence. They will likely not confront their real record on social security from their time in government.

The mistake people are going to make is to defend universalism 'on principle' or by appealing to the 'popular support' it encourages. But these are not Facts, they are very difficult to demonstrate with evidence and why are our sincerely and long-held principles superior to the ones which Ed Balls will discard as soon as it is expedient? Obvious, but can it be proven with evidence that can't be disputed?

'What is' is that politicians enable themselves to be worse. Parliament can not bind it's successors, but must still follow the laws it doesn't repeal. Those are hurdles they have to navigate first, warning careful observers well in advance of what could be at stake. What Ed Balls has done is commit his party to a tiny budget saving, but if this happens then the statutory instrument for it will be created and it will still be there after X number of upper income pensioners have Y amount of money taken from them. So what happens later when a politician decides they want to make a bigger saving? There are then way fewer checks and balances.

Most of the complexity in social security is not in the primary legislation but in the regulations and guidelines, which primary legislation proscribes what they can do. The Coalition has used this complexity to justify making changes but really they've just expanded what is proscribed so there will be more complexity, not less because the statutory instruments have had their role expanded. Ed Balls is wanting to do the same damn thing with Winter Fuel Allowance- introduce the statutory instrument that enable real abuse later.

This is not the same as making a 'slippery slope' argument: I am not saying that A always leads to C, but that C requires B which requires A meaning that C requires A. We could not have had £9,000 annual tuition fees imposed on students by this government without tuition fees being imposed in the first place by the previous one. Without the Personal Capability Assessment there would be no Work Capability Assessment. Without the New Deals, there would be no Work Programme. Universal Benefit claimants will lose all statutory rights because despite the claims of politicians, JSA claimants have always been at the mercy of the legally-binding Jobseekers Agreement since the 90s. Having realised that despite this being the case for ages, the public hasn't noticed so they were able to get away with massively expanding this abusive power of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the Welfare Reform Act so it includes every claimant even if they are in work.

They could not have done any of these terrible things without first overcoming the initial massive hurdles to implement tiny insignificant policies, only to later use the statutory framework developed after the fact to do much worse. What will Ed Balls do when someone decides to expand the scope of who is affected? Will he say "I never thought that would happened" or will he be the one himself who does it?

Universalism is not negotiable. That is not a statement of principle. It's my cynical survival reflex.

28 comments:

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/universal-credit-and-in-work-support


    Oh my word-this is seriously worrying

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  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/universal-credit-and-in-work-support-the-call-for-ideas

    Love the self reliance line-these people would not survive a week of our lives;take no responsibility whatsoever and shy away from facing up to the truth-they are the "problem" certainly not us.

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  3. Mr N Robinson mentioning the AME and the seeming agreement of Labour to apply this to "welfare" if in Government;ignoring the "it's a bit complicated for scum to understand,even scum that listen to Radio 4" line that most commentators make(ever so hilarious that they exhibit far less knowledge than even I)he specifically mentioned the "mushrooming" of IB and DLA-two points I would make .1. highly disingenuous statistically-suspect it was more "not really sick/disabled" line now not even having to be mentioned but "taken as read" and 2.why is it a problem given that it saves money given any alternative?I am afraid the terms of reference of any reasonable discourse has been forever lost."welfare" by definition is a "problem" and on an "unsustainable path"-particularly with regard to disability/illness and must be reigned it-no debate,not even a question as to consequences beyond crocodile tears and salivating journalists asking for personal stories and getting their rocks off it,with a glee that is reprehensible.We have lost my friend,all we can do is try to survive as best we can

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    1. It's very common for journalists, deliberately avoiding doing any real work by saying that the end result would be 'too difficult' for the audience to understand.

      Yet when they do read half a page of some table, they hilariously advertise their lack of understanding of the figures and it's even worse when they're falling back on what's being circulated by Reuters and Associated Press.

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  4. Agreed,I am no genius and I get the gist of AME etc,it was particularly annoying because it was in conversation with Evan Davis and he was basically getting the latter to agree that it was too difficult for listeners in the manner of "unlike us".I know I am of a sensitive disposition but treat the listener with respect,give the information and if listeners want more information I am sure they are able to find out beyond the simplified "interpretation"-but you are too thick to know-trust in us-perhaps paranoia but that was my feeling.With the ever helpful "mushrooming"="disabilty living allowance,IB and HB " as examples"-what not pensions?

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    1. Just to be clear ,this is a general opinion and not specific to any journalist/commentator and I am of a sensitive nature.

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  5. Made the grave mistake of waiting for the ED M speech tomorrow,this is the Party I joined over thirty years ago as my only hope. I am stuffed And far from the only one.

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  6. Made the grave mistake of waiting for the ED M speech tomorrow,this is the Party I joined over thirty years ago as my only hope. I am stuffed And far from the only one.

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  7. Ours fears are unwarranted-http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/how-disability-living-allowance-being-reformed

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  8. http://www.newstatesman.com/business/2013/06/six-questions-answered-changes-disability-living-allowance


    Spot the errors.With friends like these.Heartening to see a "left wing" journal revealing the truth-sigh

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  9. Must admit I missed this-finally publishing individual responses to DLA non consultation-April 2013-https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-living-allowance-reform-consultation-responses

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    1. Ah, gonna have a read then probably tweet it to @Suey2y.

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  10. Have waded through 500 on-line responses,brief summary-main barriers-attitudinal,stigma,ignorance-,no need for change to PIP/ leave Mobility alone-497;3-proving the point from nondisabled-"get the scroungers/exaggerate disability/free car etc.

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  11. I worked in the "care field" throughout my non-career.Unfortunately ,there was a minority but highly vocal element that seemed to possess a rather strange(to me)jealousy towards those they "helped" and/or their families.Going by some of the responses this has not changed,they are particularly obsessed with cars-I have no interest in cars,but cutting my legs off to secure a "free one" never appealed.

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  12. Just to say,that I only came across the release of information by "back tracking" to original consultation on the "new" website .As far as I am aware it was never announced,mentioned publically as being released beyond the appearence-hence the two months hiatus in finding it.

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  13. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/opportunities-for-occupational-therapists

    "And that’s why we are seeing a transformation in the way government, and society more widely, looks at the role of sickness and health in relation to work.

    This is why DWP moved to more individualised work programmes, which can offer intensive support in a flexible way.

    That’s why we focused on helping lone parents back to work sooner."



    Seriously strange juxtaposition of sickness/disabilty and being a single parent,but then again part of the intended linkage of "sins"

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  14. Just to add,there was a debate on carers in the H of C.It took only a few seconds for the "keeping them at work/helping them to work"trope to skew the the whole debate.I realise that that is a concern for many;indeed I did both.But until it is equally emphasised that is VALID and not burdensome for carers or State to remain caring without paid employment there will be no movement to reduce the "crisis in care".INVEST in that option-remove the stupidity of removal of DLA/CA after four weeks in hospital-there would be no patients left without meals etc-the penalty for "spare rooms" would have been seen as the misanthropy as it is .Even in supposed "friendly" discourse caring is deemed less than paid employment and a problem,it is only a problem if you obsess about paid employment ;if they were genuinely that concerned they would make it a "job" and pay the going rate.

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  15. My response to the consultation after implementation of PIP


    "In reaching our decision we will consider how any potential changes might affect
    individuals and the numbers of people likely to receive the benefit. We will also
    consider the potential impact of any changes on PIP and overall welfare expenditure
    and whether this is affordable and sustainable."


    To whom it may concern,
    the above quote from the consultation starkly outlines what the reform to PIP was all about.It appears to me that but for the relentless campaign of the sick/disabled ,their carers and their organisations for the Government to reconsider,this belated attempt to further consult would not have occurred.Welcome though it is ,it reveals a basic miscomprehension,that you can make savings by reduction/removing a cost-saving allowance.I also note the irony of how much monies is being spent on the "reform" when DLA could have quite easily and far more cheaply been adapted.It is with sadness that any points I raise will be seen through the prism of perceived cost implications rather than genuine consideration of how best to engender independence.

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  16. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-01/disabilitycare-officially-begins-today/4790322

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  17. http://www.disabilitycareaustralia.gov.au/

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  18. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/208850/130626-ad-hoc-bereavement-benefits.pdf

    Ridiculous misuse of statistics to come up with 50/50 ish impact,a bit like Mr Clegg saying that the theft of a weeks entitlement is not a cut (because you cannot cut what does not yet exist).

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  19. in a total state of shock I made a complaint to the BBC concerning-

    originally it said "does not effect people in work"-to give them their due they changed it and mentioned what I staed -carers allowance etc-OK not particularly dramatic and a miniscule amount of people would read it but just thought I would mention for future.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23325667

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  20. Received a four page response from a Government Minister at the DWP (via MP)I had outlined my concerns regarding the impact of reforms on Carers/the ability to care.After the usual "valuable contribution" line it ,without breath confirmed that so valuable was their contribution 5,000 receivers of CA were rewarded by inclusion in the the "overall cap".It largely reiterated what I had stated to them,but valuable as written confirmation.It reconfirmed the removal of Income Support support for mortgage interest on any earnings and stated that their estimate was eight hours paid employment would be needed to make up the shortfall,it did not address my point that I (and many others) would be worse off than the current system . Basically,when they say "better off in work" or on "every hour"-they know they are telling porkies.It did not address the salient point of making it harder to care but merely itemised each reform in isolation ,conveniently forgetting the obvious situation of Carers-eg 8 hours might not seem a lot but I struggled an average of 10.No cumultative assessment-where have we heard that before.Kudos though for a complete response.

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  21. Lest I appear selfish it was equally about the impact on sick and disabled people,I just couched it in terms of "a crisis in care" as a way in.

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  22. Sorry for going on but by way of illustration.Under the "old system"-always better off in work by £20-not much and there is a case for increasing it-which they have for some carers but actually reduced it for others-single carers not in same household.They demolished this by other changes to result in our case,according to their estimates a less gain as a best case scenario after the most I ever managed to work.Rather than encouraging to maintain /attain work if possible it does the opposite.

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  23. Labour Housing group-regional benefit cap excluding child benefit,presumably including CA-bastards I am beginning to take this personally are they dense-ffs don't water it down stand by principle(some hope)-

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxsYWJvdXJob3VzaW5nZ2JibzAwfGd4OmJiODBmNjg4YmQ3ZjcyNA

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