Esther McVey: punish the vulnerable and call it support

20_february_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,006

Friday 20 February 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I have been wading through the Oral evidence from Esther McVey and Chris Hayes: Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, HC 814 – Wednesday 4 February 2015.

First off let me say that I experienced London pea soupers in the 50’s and 60’s, fogs in which you could not see your hand in front of your face. Reading the transcript was a remarkably similar experience except the fog was a relentless onslaught of verbal diarrhoea from McVey. Chris Hayes isn’t close to being in the same league as McVey, but he didn’t really help the process in any way. To be honest I think Hayes could have safely been substituted with a nodding dog and no one any the wiser but McVey presented a virtuoso performance in wilful deception, filibuster and prevarication.

McVey explicitly acknowledges that many, if not most, of the people sanctioned are the most fragile and the most vulnerable, but refuses to acknowledge that every aspect of the special measures, or extra support, she imposes is punitive. She also wilfully confuses financial support with conditionality support, or contractual obligations to attend supposed training for work. She claims that additional financial support immediately kicks in for the most vulnerable yet admits that this amounts to 60% of benefits and that’s it, no other extra financial support is available. McVey is indifferent to any hardship suffered, regarding hardship as an incentive to meet contractual obligations and to find work.

Chris Hayes does have something to say about the 60% hardship payments, “It is important in a conditionality system to have a credible benefit reduction to ensure that people comply.” In other words, forced labour in taking part in the Jobcentre Plus regime.

Asked whether she had done any impact assessments McVey blustered her way through findings in Europe but it quickly became clear that she had undertaken no such assessments in the UK and refused to address the impact of sanctions in the UK despite repeatedly being asked to address the question.

McVeys entire approach is to strip people of choice and human dignity and to force them into compliance, and, as she admitted, this is for the most vulnerable and fragile people. Of course MvVey is protected by parliamentary privilege and protocols, frankly I think that is all that protected her from Glenda Jackson, if no one else, decking her. Certainly no such protections exist for her victims.

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