An unemployed man is suing Prime Minister David Cameron for £1 million in a battle over freedom of speech.
Jobseeker Harvey Stone claims he was unlawfully prosecuted for sending the government an email protesting against their treatment of the unemployed.
The father of one, of Holten-le-Clay, Lincolnshire, says his struggle to find a job has been made infinitely harder after he sent a “protest email” to the government over George Osbourne‘s “Help to Work” scheme, and was charged with a criminal offence as a result.
Mr Stone, who is married with a 16-month old daughter, says he was charged with an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, after sending the email, protesting against the Chancellor’s controversial plans to make the unemployed perform unpaid labour.
The family man, who says the Tory leader has “allowed his government to discriminate against and criminalize the unemployed“, through the much-criticised policy, claims his human right to freedom of expression has been violated.
He has now launched a High Court bid for £1 million in damages, claiming his reputation and future chances of gaining employment are in tatters as a result of the furore.
In a writ lodged at London’s High Court, Mr Stone’s sets out his case, saying:
“Prime Minister David Cameron has allowed his government to pursue a course of action designed to discriminate against and criminalize the unemployed, breaching the Human Rights Act 1998 Article 4, the prohibition of slavery and forced labour.
“This prompted a protest email from myself, for which I was arrested and charged under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.”
Mr Stone claimed that the arrest and charge breached his human right to free speech, and caused loss and damage to himself and his struggling family.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. The negligent actions of David Cameron’s government could lead to a criminal record for myself making it hard to find a job,” he said.
Mr Stone is claiming £500,000 in lost future earnings and a further £500,000 for damage to his reputation, “and the stress his government has caused to myself and my family, as I try to support my wife and my 16-month old daughter.”
Emphasizing the gulf in status between himself and the Prime Minister, Mr Stone also adds in the writ: “I have no money…I am unemployed, do not own property or anything of financial value and have to support my wife and daughter on benefits.”
He concludes: “The issues raised are of general public importance. Only too often the litigant in person is regarded as a problem for judges and for the court system, rather than the person for whom the civil justice system exists.”
Mr Cameron’s lawyers have acknowledged receipt of the claim against him but his defence to the action was not available from the court. Mr Stone’s case has yet to be tested in evidence before a judge.
Source – Grimsby Telegraph, 11 July 2014
> As noted elsewhere, ConDem posh boy George Osbourne gave a speech today, at Tilbury. It might have been nice if a few dockers had decided to heckle him, but as that doesn’t seem to have happened (perhaps no nasty rough types were allowed in), here’s a section of his speech, wherein he refers to his plans for those of us on benefits, with a few heckles added…
The culmination of this week that sees the biggest reduction of business and personal tax in two decades.
It’s only possible because your hard work is helping us fix the economy – and it is only part of our plan to create jobs.
> Oi, posh boy ! Was cutting all those public sector jobs in the North East also part of your plan to create jobs ? How did that work, then ?
For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.
We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work
There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.
> There was not enough jobs for those looking for a job. That was, and is, the real problem.
Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to wo
That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.
> Hang on, George… if people could get almost as much on benefits as they would working, how do they get trapped in poverty ? Is this a tacit admission that some jobs pay as little as benefits ?
It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.
> How about tax payers like me (we’re all taxpayers – VAT, council tax, bedroom tax) who left school in 1977 and over the years has paid a lot of tax and national insurance on the understanding that, should I fall on hard times, I could claim benefits or, should I be lucky enough not to need to, my national insurance payments would go to help those who did need help ?
National Insurance is payed for a reason. Stop perverting that reason.
So if Tuesday is when we help businesses creating jobs; and Sunday is when we help hardworking people with jobs; next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them.
Benefits will only go up by 1% – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.
> Missue of figures alert ! Its not the percentage of the rise that matters, but the benefit or wage it’s an increase of.
A 10% rise for someone on basic Jobseeker’s Agreement would only amount to little over £7 a week – or £1 per day.
Meanwhile, our MPs are happily accepting an 11% rise – that’s 11% of some very good existing rates of pay. Got anything to say about that George ? No ? Thought not.
When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working. That was outrageous.
> £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits – what ? Yearly, monthly, weekly ? How were these benefits made up ? How many cases were there ? Were there any or did you just make it up ?
If ‘some people’ ever really did get that much, then it must have been a very minute percentage of the total. So why are your policies designed to hit those much further down the chain, those on basic benefits ? Hardly fair, is it ?
So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.
> Define the “average working family”.
We’re now capping the overall welfare bill, so we control that. That came into force last week.
And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.
From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits.
We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.
So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.
> so they can get constant help and encouragement – there speaks a man who’s never had to claim even the most basic benefits. Constant harrassment and discouragement would be nearer the mark.
To claim benefits people will also have to show they can speak English, or go on a course to learn how. It is ridiculous that people who didn’t speak English, and weren’t trying to learn it, could sit on out of work benefits in this country.
If people can’t speak English it is hard to get a job. Starting this week it will be even harder to get benefits if they’re not even attempting to learn it.
> How about posh boys who can speak English but talk bollocks, George ? How about people with regional accents ? Cut their benefits until they learn to talk proper ?
We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit.
When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.
> By which I suppose he means their old, discredited, scam-riddled and generally ridiculed Universal Jobmatch.
From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.
> Then slowly starve as your claim for basic benefit help takes weeks to be processed…or get evicted for not being able to pay your rent, bills, council tax, bedroom tax, etc.
We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits -whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.
> I do like the use of ther word “ask” – as if you’d have a choice. But George, if there is all this work, why not pay people a proper wage – you know, the National Minimum Wage – to do it ? Working for benefits means they are no longer benefits – they are an illeagal, sub-NMW, slave labour rate job.
They will be gaining useful work experience and there’s an important principle here: if you want something out, you’ve got to put something in.
All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.
That’s fair to the people claiming benefits – and fair to taxpayers who are paying for them.
> As pointed out, I am a taxpayer, we all are, and I have paid in plenty over the years towards the same benefits I now have to jump through hoops for.
And if some of the taxes I’ve paid also go to help others who need it, good – that’s the whole idea of society, at least as I understand it.
The old way has failed. More public spending leading to more welfare bills and more government jobs the country couldn’t afford.
Instead, this week, we follow the new way, our way: backing businesses by cutting their taxes so they can create jobs; cutting the tax on hard working people so their job pays; and holding back welfare rises and imposing more conditions on those claiming the dole, so that getting a job pays more.
> so that getting a job pays more – pays more what ? More costs in poverty, disease, stress, mental illness ? Bigger prison bills, when people are forced into desperate measures ? More homelessness ? Who exactly does this pay more to ?
The biggest business and personal tax cuts for a generation.
Welfare changes that get people back to work.
That’s our jobs plan and it’s the only plan in town.
And it’s working.
> Look, if you really just want to save money – stop subsidising the royal family (the true benefit scroungers), scrap Trident, stop getting embroilled in foreign wars that are nothing to do with us, 1% pay rises for MPs (and cut down on the expenses as well), stop pouring money into abortions like Universal Jobmatch… and so much more.
Of course, if your plan is actually a gradual reintroduction of the feudal system, then yes, it obviously is working.
Here’s the scenario –
You’re walking along a riverbank, just above a high waterfall, you have your camera with you.
Suddenly you notice a boat on the river. It appears to be in trouble, it’s engine has failed and the current is pulling it towards the falls and certain destruction.
Looking closer you see that the boat is full of people you recognize – David Cameron, George Osbourne, Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and several others of their motley crew.
There is a rope on the riverbank – if you were to throw it to the boat and tie the other end to a tree, it would arrest their headlong rush to destruction and they’d be able to haul themselves to safety.
On the other hand… you have your camera and, should you choose not to intervene, the chance of some photos which you could name your own price for – easily enough to get you off the dole and set yourself up for life.
So… the big question – do you
(a) use colour film, or
(b) opt for dramatic black & white shots ?
The UK unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2009, official figures show.
At 7.4%, this is the lowest rate since the February-to-April period in 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The number of people out of work fell by 99,000 to 2.39 million in the three months to October, the ONS said.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in November fell by 36,700 to 1.27 million.
In Northern Ireland the unemployment rate was slightly higher at 7.5%, while Scotland’s figure was 7.1.%. England and Wales matched the national figure of 7.4%.
The North East of England had the highest unemployment rate, at 10.1%, while the lowest rate was 5.6% in the East of England.
The North East also had the highest claimant count rate at 6.1%, compared with the South East, which had the lowest, at 2.3%.
Employment Minister Esther McVey wasn’t slow to grab the credit – “It is really encouraging news that the number of people in jobs has increased by a quarter of a million in the last three months, bringing the total number of people in work to a record-breaking 30 million.
“Together with a big fall in unemployment, this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work is proving successful.
“It’s also thanks to British businesses up and down the country who are feeling increasingly confident about taking on workers. This is a great sign that the economy is growing.”
Good of her to give a mention to the businesses employing people – “It’s also thanks to British businesses up and down the country” – you might have thought that it’s entirely thanks to them.
Or would you ? Perhaps, against all probability, there is actually some truth to be found in her statement – “this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work is proving successful”.
Now if you were to amend that to – “this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits is proving successful” you might be getting closer to the truth.
“Latest figures show Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who failed to do enough to find work had their benefits payments suspended 580,000 times.” – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/benefit-sanctions-ending-the-something-for-nothing-culture
The government’s propaganda site was quick to trumpet their “success” a few months ago.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commenting on the above statement:
‘Figures published today show that half a million people face the threat of destitution as their benefits are taken away in a bid to mould behaviour and encourage people to take jobs.
International evidence is that while conditionality, has its uses, it is a blunt and uncertain instrument for driving behaviour. In the US the evidence is that people disappear below the radar altogether, which may recue the claimant count but creates huge risk.
’The threat of destitution is a poorly evidenced high risk way of trying to influence the behaviour of the poorest people in the country.’
Vanishing under the radar – that’s all part of the government’s long-term economic figure-manipulating plan. It’s not about tax payers money being saved – Jobseekers Allowance payments only amount to around 3% of the budget. Almost three times that – around 8% – is paid in benefits to those IN work.
Consider the words of a Job Centre whistleblower – from 2011, and its got worse since…
A whistleblower said staff at his jobcentre were given targets of three people a week to refer for sanctions, where benefits are removed for up to six months. He said it was part of a “culture change” since last summer that had led to competition between advisers, teams and regional offices.
“Suddenly you’re not helping somebody into sustainable employment, which is what you’re employed to do,” he said.
“You’re looking for ways to trick your customers into ‘not looking for work’. You come up with many ways. I’ve seen dyslexic customers given written job searches, and when they don’t produce them – what a surprise – they’re sanctioned. The only target that anyone seems to care about is stopping people’s money.
“‘Saving the public purse’ is the catchphrase that is used in our office … It is drummed home all the time – you’re saving the public purse. Feel good about stopping someone’s money, you’ve just saved your own pocket. Its a joke.”
Unfortunately a not very funny joke, with a punchline that causes real damage.
“We were told suddenly that [finding someone to sanction] once a week wasn’t good enough, we were far behind other offices, and we went to a meeting where they compared us with other offices, and said we now have to do three a week to catch up. Most staff go into work and they’re thinking about it from moment one – who am I going to stop this week?”
“The young often fall into it, because they haven’t been there long enough, they are generally a major target. The uneducated are another major target. I’ve seen people with … seriously low educational standards and it’s easy to exploit them.”
He said staff had different ways to ensure they could stop benefits for a set amount of people.
“So, for example, if you want someone to diversify – they’re an electrician or a plumber, they may not want to go into call centres or something. What you do is keep promoting such and such a job, and you pressure them into taking it off you, the piece of paper. Then in two weeks you look at the system, you ask them if they applied for it … they say no – you stop their money for six months.”
The whistleblower says his office has been told there is no more money for back to work training from April. “From April, we offer no provision … nothing, no training course, nothing. The funding ends at the end of March.
“[Now] your office can shine through one of two targets. You can either shine through getting people into work, but that’s really difficult. Or you can stop their money, and that’s really easy.”
Well, that was 2011. Things have got worse as it becomes ingrained in the DWP culture. One perceptive reader of the above Guardian article wrote at the time :
” At some point Osborne or Cameron will triumphantly brandish figures about how many ‘scroungers’ they cut off from benefits. Remember, this is how they did it.”
Anyone hearing Cameron in the media yesterday might like to consider that.
And its going to get worse yet – consider an article published a few days ago on the Boycott Workfare site –
100,000 people given historic sanctions
In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.
After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time.
This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.
It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.
Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day (and neither do the work programme providers!).
Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.
You wonder that the unemployment rates seem to be falling ? Even though there are apparently no more vacancies than before, still masses of empty shops and factories and the local media continues to report job losses on an almost daily basis ?
Do you wonder why, in Parliament, Labour MPs failed to ask questions about the role of sanctions in the supposed improved figures ?
Or why, on the day the figures were released, the Sunderland Echo – hardly a radical publication – headlined with Bleakest Times For The City’s Homeless ?
Come April 2014 and the introduction of compulsory workfare – allied to all those retrospective sanctions they’re currently harvesting – you can just bet those figures will be tumbling yet again.
Please remember why… someone, somewhere, perhaps even you, will have been sacrificed on the altar of political ambition.
Does that dull the feelgood factor perhaps just a little ?
Will any organization in the North East follow this lead ?
Beginning in April next year thousands of unemployed people will be forced into six month workfare placements with charities or community organisations. The scheme is a huge roll out of mandatory workfare and depends on the so-called voluntary sector playing ball to be successful.
Volunteer Centre Liverpool’s re-assuring statement this week pledges they will not take part in Osborne’s workfare and encourages others to think carefully about any possible involvement in workfare. As they rightly point out, forced work, under threat of destitution, is not volunteering:
“There has been a lot of talk recently about the latest scheme to help people who are unemployed, with mention of “compulsory volunteering” as part of the “Help to Work” programme. DWP do not refer to it as volunteering, but others are starting to, which…
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