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Focus on cuts – 5: the poorest targetted

A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.

He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.

Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.

The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.

David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.

The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.

For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?

Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.

 

 

 

 

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Health corporates rampant

The FT reports that private health companies are seeking talks with ministers and health service leaders to secure a bigger role in providing NHS care amid frustration that the Conservatives have failed to drive the growth of the sector.

A BMJ analysis showed that 54% of just under 3,500 contracts, awarded between April 2013 and August 2014, went to NHS providers. A total of 33% were awarded to private sector providers, 10% to voluntary and social enterprise sector providers, and 3% to other types of provider, such as joint ventures or local authorities.

nhs partners network2

The NHS Partners Network, which represents private [independent] providers, extolled the performance of private groups, which it said had:

  • better than average NHS waiting times for elective operations,
  • lower than average cancellation rates
  • and patients reporting better results for procedures such as hip and knee replacements and groin hernias.

david mobbsDavid Mobbs [exBUPA, former consultant to Ernst & Young] chief executive of private hospital group Nuffield Health, said the relationship needed to be “revisited & refreshed” to keep the NHS financially sustainable as it faces a £30bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

Companies that would take part in any expansion of the private sector’s role include Ramsay Health Care UK, BMI Healthcare, Care UK, Spire Healthcare and Nuffield Health. The NHS Supply Chain’s biggest suppliers of procurement, logistics and ecommerce, include Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Philips Healthcare, GE Healthcare Clinical Systems and Johnson & Johnson Medical.

Yes Minister?

yes ministerDavid Cameron’s recent speech is said to reflect a belief in Whitehall that the NHS will be unable to satisfy growing demand without the additional capacity that the independent sector provides. Many have noted the large number of MPs in the last government with links to private healthcare companies (names and details here).

“We can’t do it without the private sector,” said one government insider. The health department said: “Independent providers play an important role in the NHS and have done for many years, helping patients get prompt care free at the point of use. The decision to use independent providers is made by the NHS itself, based on the best interests of patients.”

An important question

Shouldn’t the focus on increasing privatisation for the benefit of corporates and their shareholders be redirected, instead, to investigating this finding: “The cost of standard clinical procedures can also vary enormously between hospitals. Research commissioned by the FT last year found taxpayers were paying up to five times more for operations in some NHS hospitals compared with others”.

dr david_wrigleyLancashire GP David Wrigley’s verdict: “We are wasting billions annually on administering an unwanted healthcare market where providers fight each other for contracts and NHS managers spend their lives refereeing and sorting this all out. No one (except the private health industry) has asked for this. The money saved from scrapping this market system could fund decent social care for all the elderly and vulnerable people in our society”.