In an astonishing and genuinely sad day for the trade uni0n movement, the TUC have teamed up with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to issue a statement supporting unpaid work.
The TUC have sided with the bosses to sing the praises of the Tory Traineeship programme. This unpaid scheme can involve up to five months full-time work, sometimes for giant profit making companies like BT or Virgin. The placements are used to ‘prepare’ young people to be Apprentices, although there is no guarantee that they will be offered even this at the end of the scheme.
Just like Margaret Thatcher’s despised YTS schemes, Traineeships represent a wealth grab by greedy employers. Once companies recognised they had to pay young people whilst they trained – now the tax payer will pick up the tab whilst the worker gets nothing. And just like the YTS programme was used as political cover to strip benefits from 16/17 year olds, Traineeships will be used to undermine social security payments for those under 25. George Osborne has already announced that under 22 year olds who refuse a Traineeship will soon face the prospect of six month’s workfare somewhere else instead.
Despite Osborne’s announcement, the TUC say in the statement that Traineeships should be voluntary. As claimants themselves know, very little is voluntary such is the current mass benefit sanctioning culture at the DWP. This doesn’t seem to bother the scabs running the TUC who seem to have decided that Traineeships aren’t workfare, and even if they would rather they were voluntary they appear to back them anyway. This is an appalling attack on not just young unemployed people, but all workers who will see their own wages and conditions undermined by an army of unpaid staff.
It is hardly surprising that the CBI are salivating at the prospect of this huge subsidy for business at the expense of the working class. Tory Skills Minister Nick Boles has joined them saying he is ‘delighted’ that the TUC support this scheme. They no doubt dream of a day when they don’t have to pay people under 25 at all. That day may not be far away and that the TUC are helping to bring it closer is as shocking as it is shameful.
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Humiliating and demoralising face-to-face ‘fit for work’ assessment interviews, known as the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), could be scrapped following a report by experts which blamed the controversial tests for delays in processing benefit claims.Posted: April 8, 2014
It is understood that the Department for Work and Pensions is exploring the possibility of replacing the WCA with a streamlined system, based upon written medical evidence acquired from claimants, their GP’s and consultants.
Critics of the face-to-face interviews argue that scrapping the WCA would lead to a speeding up of the process, fairer outcomes for sick and disabled people and savings for taxpayers, due to less appeals being lodged against negative decisions.
At long last, it now appears as if the DWP may agree. A spokesperson for the department told the Daily Record:
The move comes after private firm Atos withdrew from a £500 million contract with the DWP, forcing the government to seek a new provider. The DWP continue to insist that the contract was terminated by the government.
Labour MP Tom Greatrex said:
“The WCA process hasn’t worked for years and the Government have failed to address it.
“The experience is demeaning, causes anxiety and 40 per cent of the tests are overturned on appeal which demonstrates it’s not fair or accurate.”
Psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD not only don’t cause mental health problems, they may actually improve mental health, say Norwegian researchers.
The study (here) pulled data from the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health, observing 130,152 randomly-selected respondents from the adult population of the US. 13.4% of that group (21,967 individuals) reported lifetime use of psychedelics. Comparing this data to standardized screening measures for mental health, the researchers found that neither lifetime psychedelic use nor use of LSD in the past year were independent risk factors for mental health problems—and that, in fact, psychedelic users had lower rates of mental health issues.
Teri S. Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen, the Norwegian researchers, additionally noted that “psychedelic plants have been used for celebratory, religious or healing purposes for thousands of years” and that “psychedelics often elicit deeply personally and spiritually meaningful experiences and sustained beneficial effects… LSD and psilocybin are consistently ranked in expert assessments as causing less harm to both individual users and society than alcohol, tobacco, and most other common recreational drugs. Given that millions of doses of psychedelics have been consumed every year for over 40 years, well-documented case reports of long-term mental health problems following use of these substances are rare.”
The study also found absolutely no evidence that “flashbacks” afflict users of psychedelics, slaying another commonly-held superstition around psychedelic use.
The Norwegian study brings good news for the over 30 million Americans who have used psychedelics (compared to 100 million who have used marijuana). And while the media has been buzzing about Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s revelation that he “changed his mind on weed,” it may be time for psychedelics to get a similar PR rehabilitation.
While psychedelics still conjure images of 1960s-era bad trips like Art Linkletter’s daughter jumping out of a window on acid (an overinflated myth, says Snopes), they have undergone significant research and slow progress towards clinical acceptance in the past decades. Researchers still labor under the immensely negative Timothy Leary-era image of psychedelics, but are steadily chipping away at the cultural deadlock created by what many see as reckless abuse of psychedelics during the 1960s and 70s. Standing in stark contrast to the negatives of that time, however, are the immense clinical benefits that psychedelics are consistently being shown to offer.
Another recent study at the University of South Florida, for instance, found that psilocybin mushrooms erase conditioned fear response in mice, suggesting they could potentially be used to cure PTSD—and that psilocybin can even prompt growth of brain cells.
Multiple studies are currently being conducted (at New York University’s medical school and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center) into using psychedelics to alleviate fear in patients with late-stage terminal illness—easing the experience of death and allowing people to end their lives in states of acceptance instead of terror.
LSD and psilocybin even hold promise for treating cluster headaches, a condition so debilitating and painful that it often leads sufferers to consider suicide.
While marijuana enjoys its time in the spotlight, it may be time for its more potent—and potentially even more beneficial—siblings to join the party.
In response to a speech by the Deputy Prime Minister on improving mental health care, Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness said:
“I welcome the fact that The Deputy Prime Minister is bringing attention to these important issues and he clearly has a personal commitment to improving the lives of people with mental illness. However, warm words will only get us so far. The reality is that NHS spending on mental health has been cut by 2% over the last two years, while demand is increasing. If Mr Clegg really wants to bring mental health care into line with physical health, as the Government has already committed, it’s never going to happen while budgets are being cut.
“The ‘mental health action plan’ is a positive step forward, and identifies a lot of areas that need to be improved. The problem is that it’s too vague and does not make any solid commitments or give time-frames for action.
“For example, everyone agrees that we need to introduce maximum waiting times for mental health but we still haven’t been given any commitments on when this will come into force. In the mean time our supporters are having to wait months or even years for life-saving treatment. This would never been seen as acceptable for cancer patients.”#
12 December 2013
The demeaning ‘fitness for work’ work test for disabled people should be scrapped, PCS says following publication of an independent review.
The work capability assessment is not designed to support people into employment, but to cut their benefit entitlement, the union says.
Last week the appeal court upheld a ruling that the tests discriminate against claimants with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism.
The government has failed to implement all the recommendations in the first three independent reviews into the WCA.
The fact that this fourth review, published today (12), contains 37 recommendations – including some basic things such as allowing claimants to see what is being written about them – shows how flawed the test is.
The union’s view – shared by the TUC, the British Medical Association, a range of disabled people’s organisations and more than 120 MPs – is that the assessments are not fit for purpose and should be scrapped.
There is mounting anecdotal evidence showing people are being found “fit for work” so denied employment and support allowance and put onto jobseeker’s allowance. They are then denied that because they are not able to start work or meet the conditionality requirements of JSA.
Sanctions for disabled people claiming ESA have increased by 156% in the last year.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “No one joined the employment service to administer a system designed to harass people and take benefits away.
“Our members want to support people into work and claim the benefits to which they are entitled. But, consistent with the government’s approach to social security, these tests are not designed to help people and they should be scrapped.”