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Let’s get the Coalition’s position on the benefit cap clear!

The Coalition's benefit cap plans would lead to tens of thousands of families losing their homes. The government, unworried by that reality, is however concerned about the news that the proposal won't save Britain any money after all
Stuart Weir
6 July 2011

A ‘government spokesman’ might have said:  “Our proposal will drive hundreds of thousands of poor and ‘squeezed middle’ families out of their homes and neighbourhoods in desirable areas and disrupt their children’s schooling, break up friendships and ruin most of their social life. We object to the canard that this constitutes urban cleansing. It is true that at the extreme end of our measures  some 20,000 families will lose their homes and have to apply for emergency housing from local authorities.  But we will save shedloads of money, OK.”

A new ‘government spokesman’ now urges caution: “Oh dear, we have worked out that another 20,000 families may pay the extreme penalty for living in areas where they don’t belong. That is not OK, because the cost of accommodating (or not) all the potentially 40,000 newly homeless families will wipe out the estimated savings the cap is supposed to deliver.”

In brief, the issue is simply one of financial costs.  In pursuit of savings on benefit spending, this government plans to create a housing tsunami that will deprive a huge number of families of their homes, schools, friends and everyday lives.  They seek to justify the onslaught in terms of a nebulous equity among the poorer people in our society – a meaningless equation, as housing benefit is itself paid to families and others renting to equalise people’s lives, it is not as though it is “spending money” as it goes to private (and public) landlords; and of course at this level child benefit is a universal across-the-board that families receive regardless of their home circumstances.

This is a government that is promoting the idea of a Big Society and its concern with well-being, or happiness.  It is very hard to square these proclaimed aims with what its ill-thought-out and reckless policies actually do. If the Big Society is to be genuinely worthwhile, it must be inclusive and equitable.  The benefit cap and hordes of other benefit changes are all predicated on the assumption that state beneficiaries are beyond the pale and, as like as not, “scroungers”. They can safely be punished for the failings of our society and its economic and housing policies to ensure that middle class and professional people can be largely untouched by the financial crisis.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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