Nick Clegg

What is Drip and how, precisely, will it help the government ruin your life?

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What is Drip and how, precisely, will it help the government ruin your life?

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers bill is the most tedious outrage ever, right down to the dreary acronym. But oh, the horrors it will bring …
Dripping tap

The drip bill … Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are backing a bill too boring for human beings to comprehend or care about. Photograph: Comstock/Getty Images

David Cameron cares about your safety. It’s all he ever thinks about. It’s his passion. He’s passionate about it. Every time David Cameron thinks about how safe he’d like to keep you, passion overcomes him and he has to have a lie down. With his eyes shut. A bit like he’s having a nap and doesn’t care about your safety at all.

Right now he’s so committed to keeping you safe, he’s rushing something called the Drip bill through the House of Commons. Drip stands for Data Retention and Investigatory Powers and critics are calling it yet another erosion of civil liberties and … see, I’ve lost you because it’s just so bloody boring. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I hear about some fresh internet privacy outrage my brain enters screensaver mode and displays that looped news footage of mumblin’ Edward Snowden and I automatically nod off only to be awoken shortly afterwards by the sound of my forehead colliding sharply with the table.

The cross-party line is that the Drip bill will make life harder for terrorists and paedophiles, coincidentally the only two sectors of society less popular than politicians. The only thing worse than a paedophile or a terrorist is a paedophile terrorist, and it won’t be long till they’re dangling that threat over our heads, introducing fresh legislation to thwart Carlos the Savile.

Of course, all this stuff about keeping tabs on child molesters is a bit rich coming from an establishment that apparently can’t keep hold of an accusatory dossier for five minutes without accidentally ripping it up and eating the shreds, so they’ve cleverly headed off charges of hypocrisy by making the bill too boring for human beings to comprehend or care about.

Drip is the most tedious outrage ever, right down to the dreary acronym, which is why they’ll get away with shoving it through the Commons. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are in cahoots with Cameron on this. All three men are, I assume, pretending to have read and understood the bill, which seems unlikely given its dry impenetrability. Siri would fall asleep halfway through. You could swap it with the technical specifications documentation for a Netgear AV 500 Powerline Adapter and no one would notice.

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‘He lived on field mushrooms and borrowed eggs’: how the coalition is dismantling the welfare state By Annie Powell

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‘He lived on field mushrooms and borrowed eggs’: how the coalition is dismantling the welfare state

The coalition is moving toward a welfare system that is surreal in its cruelty, writes Annie Powell

Nick Clegg1ncrjEarlier this year, Nick Clegg accused Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, of exaggerating when he said that the safety net for the poorest in society had been “torn apart”.

“I think to say that the safety net has been removed altogether is an exaggeration, is not right,” said Clegg.

But he is right, Nick. In the last few years the coalition has slashed so violently at the net which is meant to protect against illness and unemployment that it is no longer fit for purpose. If you fall, there’s a real risk that you’ll go crashing through to near destitution, as the rise in food banks demonstrates all too well.

For the unemployed, the arbitrary and unfair use of so-called sanctions is a large part of the story. In the year to 30 September 2013, 874,850 sanctions were issued to job seekers, the most since JSA was introduced in 1996. In October 2012, the minimum sanction was increased fourfold, from one to four weeks’ benefit. For many, that is four weeks with no income for something as minor as being late for a signing on appointment.

Indeed, in many cases the person sanctioned has broken no DWP rule, not even a minor one. There are myriad examples of how unfair these sanctions can be, a selection of which are set out below.

Importantly, the statistics support the anecdotal evidence. As Dr David Webster, senior research fellow at Glasgow University, sets out here, the most recent data to September 2013 shows that tribunals are upholding almost 90 per cent of appeals by sanctioned job seekers against the DWP, compared to less than 20 per cent under the last government. “Before the coalition the number of successful Tribunal appeals in any 12-month period was well under 2,000,” writes Webster. “It has now risen to over 14,000.”

Only about one in fifty sanctioned job seekers ends up contesting their sanction in court. The DWP’s take on this is that it shows that the “vast majority” of decisions are correct and that the system is therefore working well. Even if this were accurate, 14,000 people a year wrongly issued with such draconian punishments is a strange sort of success.

But the real number is much higher than 14,000 because, unsurprisingly, ending up in court is the last resort. Most claimants who appeal will first have done so internally. This process is hardly perfect as the decision maker is still the DWP, but thousands of wrong decisions are still identified at this stage. Using this data Policy Exchange found that around 68,000 people on JSA a year have their benefits taken away “by mistake”.

In addition, to appeal you have to know that you have the right to appeal. Many are not informed of this right, let alone how to exercise it.

You also have to have the mental, physical and financial resources to appeal. Appealing means doing battle with the DWP’s hellish administration system. It will also involve the cost of making phone calls, stamps, stationery perhaps, and maybe travel expenses to get to the nearest CAB. These are not small sums when you have been stripped of your benefits. Many will surely wonder whether it is worth the money and effort appealing when the whole system is so unfairly stacked against them.

The coalition seems to have dispensed with even the traditional dichotomy of deserving versus undeserving poor: anyone who needs state help is now penalised, including – or especially – the sick. The horrors of ATOS, the removal of the Independent Living Fund for the most disabled people, the failure to pay out personal independent payments to which disabled people are entitled: these have all had catastrophic and sometimes fatal consequences.

Read more here from Left Foot Forward

“Tory” Clegg leaves the door open to further welfare cuts

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By George Eaton Published 16 December 2013

At his monthly press conference, the Deputy PM refuses to rule out

reducing the benefit cap or limiting child benefit to two children for out-of-work families.

George Osborne has made it clear that he plans to introduce “billions” more in welfare cuts if the Tories win the next election, including a possible reduction in the £26,000 household benefit cap and new limits on child benefit, but where does Nick Clegg stand? At the Deputy PM’s final monthly press conference of the year, I asked him whether he was prepared to consider a reduction in the benefit cap in the next parliament. He told me:

It’s not something that I’m advocating at the moment because we’ve only just set this new level and it’s £26,000, which is equivalent to earning £35,000 before tax…I think we need to keep that approach, look and see how it works, see what the effects are, but not rush to start changing the goalposts before the policy has properly settled down.

The key words here are “at the moment”. While Clegg again declared that he believed the priority should be to remove universal pensioner benefits from the well-off (“you start from the top and you work down”), he was careful not rule out a cut in the level of the cap. Similarly, on the Conservative proposal to limit child benefit to the first two children for out-of-work families, while Clegg said there was “something a bit arbitrary” about “a government saying how many children the state will or will not help support”, he refused to oppose the idea in principle. He said:

Is my priority returning to child benefit, as the first port of call, no it’s not. But I’m not going to start drawing great circles around this policy or that policy. I want to look at it in the round.

From New Statesman full article here