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AAV: Psychological torture WCA Atos

September 13, 2013 Leave a comment

I suffered sexual abuse. I refuse to be ashamed any more | Roshi Fernando

May 14, 2013 Leave a comment
Categories: Abuse, Media, Mental Health, Stigma

Save Lives Save Refuge Services – protect life saving domestic violence services from the impact of welfare reform – e-petitions

April 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Public Interest Lawyers Limited: Court of Appeal Rules that the Government’s “Back to Work” Regulations are Unlawful and Must Be Quashed

February 12, 2013 1 comment

Court of Appeal Rules that the Government’s “Back to Work” Regulations are Unlawful and Must Be Quashed

 

12/02/2013
 

In a unanimous decision, three judges from the Court of Appeal have today ruled that the Regulations[1] under which most of the Government’s “Back to Work” schemes have been created are unlawful and must be quashed. The ruling is a huge setback for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whose flagship reforms have been beset with problems since their inception.

The effect of the judgment is that all those people who have been sanctioned by having their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the Back to Work Schemes affected will be entitled to reclaim their benefits. And until new regulations are enacted with proper Parliamentary approval nobody can be compelled to participate on the schemes.

The Government initially indicated that it would seek a stay of the order quashing the Regulations “because of the ramifications of the decision.” The Government’s Counsel[2] submitted that the effect of the decision would be immediate: “the original requirement imposed on claimants such as Mr Wilson that they participate in a programme would be unlawful and they could not be required to participate further.” People would be free to leave placements if they did not wish to continue with them, and all sanctions currently imposed would have to be immediately brought to an end.

However, after objections from the Claimants, the Government today abandoned their request for a stay of the quashing order which means that the judgment takes immediate effect.

The case was brought by our clients Cait Reilly, who was made to stack shelves in Poundland for two weeks, and Jamie Wilson, who was stripped of his Jobseeker’s allowance for 6 months after refusing to participate in a scheme[3] which required him to work 30 hours a week for six months for free.

In a carefully reasoned judgment the Court found that the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, has acted beyond the powers given to him by Parliament[4] by failing to provide, any detail about the various “Back to Work” schemes in the Regulations. The Government had bypassed Parliament by introducing the Back to Work schemes administratively under an “umbrella” scheme knwons as the Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme, claiming the need for “flexibility’. The Court of Appeal held that this was contrary to what Parliament had required. Stanley Burnton LJ stated:

“any scheme must be such as has been authorised by Parliament. There is a constitutional issue involved. The loss of jobseekers’ allowance may result in considerable personal hardship, and it is not surprising that Parliament should have been careful in making provision for the circumstances in which the sanction may be imposed. There are well known legislative formulae for conferring complete flexibility of decision on a Minister.” (at [75])

The result is that over the past two years the Government has unlawfully required tens of thousands of unemployed people to work without pay and unlawfully stripped thousands more of their subsistence benefits.

The case has revealed the chaos and confusion at the heart of the DWP who have set up a web of schemes and sanctions so complex that their own jobcentre advisers are failing to implement them correctly. It has shown that the basic requirements of fairness dictated by Parliament, such as providing people with a clear explanation of what they are being asked to do, why they are being asked to do it and what the consequences are if they fail to do it, have not been complied with by the DWP.

What Next?

Tessa Gregory, solicitor, Public Interest Lawyers states:

Today’s judgment sends Iain Duncan Smith back to the drawing board to make fresh Regulations which are fair and comply with the Court’s ruling. Until that time nobody can be lawfully forced to participate in schemes affected such as the Work Programme and the Community Action Programme. All of those who have been stripped of their benefits have a right to claim the money back that has been unlawfully taken away from them from the DWP.

The case has revealed that the Department of Work and Pensions was going behind Parliament’s back and failing to obtain Parliamentary approval for the various mandatory work schemes that it was introducing. It also reveals a lack of transparency and fairness in the implementation of these schemes. The Claimants had no information about what could be required of them under the back to work schemes. The Court of Appeal has affirmed the basic constitutional principle that everyone has a right to know and understand why sanctions are being the threatened and imposed against them

 

Jamie Wilson

I am really pleased that the Court has found in our favour. I refused to participate in the Community Action Programme (CAP) because I objected to being made to clean furniture for 30 hours a week for 6 months when I knew it wouldn’t help me find employment. I was given next to no information about the programme, I was told simply that I had to do whatever the DWP’s private contractor instructed me to do and that if I didn’t I may lose my benefits. Being without jobseeker’s allowance was very difficult for me but I don’t regret taking a stand as the CAP is a poorly thought out and poorly implemented scheme which even according to the DWP’s own statistics is not helping anyone get people back to work.

I am now participating in the Work Programme but it doesn’t involve me working for free, I have to meet an advisor every 3 to 4 weeks who helps me look for work. I will continue to attend these sessions with my adviser regardless of whether or not I am required to attend because I want to find a job and the sessions are very helpful.

 

Cait Reilly

I am delighted with today’s judgment. I brought this case because I knew it was wrong when I was prevented from doing my voluntary work in a museum and forced to work in Poundland for free for two weeks as part of a scheme known as the sector based work academy. Those two weeks were a complete waste of my time as the experience did not help me get a job, I wasn’t given any training and I was left with no time to do my voluntary work or search for other jobs. The only beneficiary was Poundland, a multi-million pound company. Later I found out that I should never have been told the placement was compulsory.

I don’t think I am above working in shops like Poundland,  I now work part time at the in a supermarket, it’s just that I expect to get paid for working. I hope the Government will now take this opportunity to rethink its strategy and do something which actually builds on young unemployed peoples’ skills and tackles the causes of long-term unemployment. I agree we need to get people back to work but the best way of doing that is by helping them, not punishing them. The Government ought to understand that if they created schemes which actually helped people get back into work then they wouldn’t need to force people to attend.


[1] Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise) Regulations 2011

[2] Paul Nicholls QC

[3] Community Action Programme

[4] under the Welfare Reform Act 2009 which amended the Jobseeker’s Allowance Act1995
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The Observer Editorial: Child abuse: let’s replace moral panic with mature reform

November 11, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/10/newsnight-mcalpine-hysteria

 

Child abuse: let’s replace moral panic with mature reform

The dramatic and tragic departure of George Entwistle as BBCdirector general will, of course, take all the headlines. But it shouldn’t hide the still deeper questions behind this appalling affair. Which human fate is the more horrible? To be a child who is sexually abused? Or to be falsely named as a sexual abuser? No easy answers, because these are questions that all of us – accusers, accused, professionals, police, politicians, media men, twitterers and compulsive gossips – need to struggle to resolve. Because the hysteria we have now, and have witnessed through the weeks since Jimmy Savile was denounced in death, won’t serve any longer. Because the BBC itself is both stage centre and a sideshow here. Why was the BBC of the 70s and 80s so sluggardly at suspecting the harm that Savile seemed to wreak with impunity? Why, for that matter, were the hospitals and prisons he visited so fawningly gullible? Assorted inquiries are toiling after conclusions: but ponder two interim thoughts. One is that rich and famous celebrities who raise tons of charity cash, and earn enough to hire the best lawyers in town, can lead a charmed life if they wish. Another is that sexual abuse is a desperately difficult crime to unearth and, particularly, prove.

Just look at the points made by one ex-editor of the Sunday Mirrorwho, a couple of decades ago, tried and failed to expose Savile. His accusers were teenage girls from an approved school. Would they risk coming forward? If they did, would they be believed? George Carman QC made it crystal clear to the Mirror that Savile would sue if any story was printed (and that Carman himself might be lead silk for the claimant). The only other way of breaking the news, then, could be a classic Fleet Street sting. Send a young reporter into Savile’s dressing-room to play victim of the night. But even powerful tabloid newspapers don’t have 13-year-old, trained, brave and eloquent correspondents on their books. No sting: so no story.

It’s sensible to rehearse these difficulties now because the very fact that Savile wasn’t exposed long ago rankles. It’s a blight on the BBC, and on journalism as a whole. What could be more natural, then, for the reporters of Newsnight to battle to get their investigation out there once the threat of libel had died with its subject? And what could be more natural, given their failure – scooped by ITV – than for the next tale of paedophilia to be run with drumbeats of portent and knowing slivers of advance puffery? Leading Tory murked in North Wales care home scandal! At which point, almost inevitably, the wheel of misfortune turns with a vengeance. Nobody, it seems, thinks to show the accuser in this matter a picture of the political grandee he’s accusing. Nobody thinks to put the allegations to Lord McAlpine. Thus, for a torrid week of tweets, the name of the supposed abuser flows through the ether, finally breaking cover over one simple fact. It’s a botch. Newsnight, twice cursed, got the wrong man; all the guidelines and statutory referrals in the world didn’t keep them safe.

Two issues flow. One – of inevitable media interest, given impending Leveson inquiry events – will explore and obsess afresh over the alleged wonder of the statutory regime that covers our broadcasters. Did poor, stumbling George Entwistle know which was up way is up? Couldn’t he listen to Today, read a newspaper and think about giving a speech at the same time? This was incuriosity incarnate. There’s a tipping point where bad luck turns to frail judgment – and obviously wonky management structures as Chris Patten, the chairman who appointed George, greases his slipway. But who on earth – over on ITV’s daytime sofa – thought it a good idea to let Philip Schofield wave a tweeted list of so-called abusers at David Cameron? These self-inflicted wounds aren’t trivial. They raise questions of professionalism, command and control in an infinitely more complex and demanding media era. But the second issue now reaches much further than this. It requires that we all answer for ourselves.

Child abuse often seems the vilest of emotionally challenging crimes. Most of it, by far, happens within families. It is parents and grandparents, brothers, uncles and friends who do the damage. Seeking to expose them rips families apart. And beyond the family, as we now see once more, institutions themselves are vulnerable. Care homes can shelter the callous. Schools are prone to scandal. Neither hospital wards nor BBC green rooms offer safe haven. Yet because so much happens behind closed doors, because crimes go unreported or are brushed aside for lack of evidence, there is no settled public perception of this secretive world. One minute Savile is a monster and 300 or more of his victims, real or alleged, form a throng. An avalanche of tweets ensues. But, the next minute, this avalanche of anger carries away a retired politician as victim himself, this time of mistaken identity, and a second mudslide of public opinion begins to form. Fairness and balance? The internet is not “fair”, it is us, howling away. And there is no “balance” because we have no balanced attitude to child abuse, just raw emotion and oscillations of moral panic.

We are good at investigations designed to make sure that something “never happens again” and very poor at remembering next time around. In part, frankly, that is because the very subject of child abuse rises and falls behind a cloud of official secrecy and anonymity. How can you engage in reasoned, consistent debate if the facts are opaque? But – inevitable riposte – how then do you protect the child?

Moral panic comes, some psychiatrists say, because we recognise some dark, voyeuristic feeling in our own being. Child abuse is the most difficult of all areas to capture in rational debate. But, since this coalition government seems bent on setting up an inquiry a day, let us at least have one inquiry now that tackles the over-arching questions no smaller investigation can reach. What, among a cacophony of voices crying doom or complacency, is the true dimension of child abuse in Britain? How good are we at breaking generational links of abuse, binding mothers and children, rooting the child in loving attachments? Has the last great surge of reform – from Every Child Matters in 2003 – begun to peter out as spending cuts and harder times return? If society sets safeguarding children at some special premium, can we please define that importance in an enduring way?

If we could have an engaged debate about tackling the problem of child abuse as a whole, about defining it, isolating it, treating it, then there might, perhaps, be some conclusions that help set moral panic in a context where hysteria – and tweeting tirades – no longer rule. But, for the moment, there seems only a crude choice between witch-hunts and no hunts at all; and a moral panic at the BBC helps no one.

Categories: Abuse, Child Protection

Eileen Fairweather, The Guardian: Inquiries fail abused children

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/06/inquiries-fail-abused-children

 

Inquiries fail abused children

As an investigative journalist, I have for over 20 years exposed paedophiles preying on children in care in, among other sorry places, Islington, Essex, Hackney, Jersey, north Wales and Romania. My work has generated numerous inquiries. Every one essentially confirmed what I, brave whistleblowers and abuse survivors revealed. But did they bring child abusers to justice? Not at all.

Inquiries are mostly the establishment’s way of managing dissent and pretending something is being done. I did not rejoice when David Cameron announced there would be an inquiry into allegations that children in the north Wales homes scandal were abused not just by staff but also by politicians, police and businessmen; or when Theresa May appointed the chief of the National Crime Agency to investigate how north Wales police handled allegations of child abuse in the 70s and 80s. Those allegations have been known for decades. We don’t need another inquiry but a proper, long overdue police investigation.

The horrors of the Jimmy Savile scandal have at last made the unimaginable imaginable. Allegations that children abused in care homes and schools across Britain have sometimes also been abused by powerful outsiders are not new. But not one of the resulting inquiries has had the power, remit, skills or resources to investigate properly. How could they? The paedophile rings preying on children in care are a form of organised crime. Only an expert national taskforce, staffed by detectives and senior social workers with track records in collaring paedophiles, have the faintest chance of cracking them.

These rings all join up. An investigator may start by looking at a home in north Wales but soon will be looking at a linked home in north London or Devon. The paedophiles protect each other and swap children, references, cover stories, venues and customers. Yet no one ever joins up the dots and says it is time we investigated them nationally.

Worse, most inquiries depend almost exclusively upon the testimony of abuse survivors. Children who go into care have often suffered cruel or tragic family lives, poor education and then horrific abuse in the system supposed to protect them. Many later survive through prostitution and petty crime, serve time in mental hospitals or jail and become addicted to drugs and alcohol. They are easily attacked as poor and unreliable witnesses. It is obscene to make them relive childhood tortures yet again unless other evidence is looked at too.

Many survivors or those supporting them have tried to point police towards the people and places used to prostitute children. They have identified child brothels, transportation routes, hotels and bars, fixers, providers of false documents and outlets for the lucrative trade in images of child abuse. Almost none of this evidence has ever been acted upon.

The child protection whistleblower who contacted the MP Tom Watson last month did so because he was once in a team of just the kind needed now. I was first in contact with his team and wrote about it 19 years ago, before it was abruptly closed down by orders from on high. It was a brilliant prototype, a joint police/social services investigation into the ring around childcare guru Peter Righton. It produced establishment names and revealed an alleged linked cover-up by Labour – let us never forget paedophilia is a cross-party crime – and was shut down as a result. Not one of the implicated men was prosecuted.

So, how much does Britain care for its children? If we get another inquiry stuffed with do-gooders with no real powers, we will know. We don’t need more hand-wringing and a report published years later; we need to kick down a few doors and rescue some children.

Eileen Fairweather is a freelance journalist covering child protection issues

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