Long term pain, for short term political gain.

As if having one of the crapiest state pensions in Europe which makes pensioners who have contributed to society and having paid taxes from the day they were old enough to take their first job, adding in a dash of moving the goalposts without warning (WASPI women); is not bad enough. Now it is becoming clear that is worse than first thought.

Tens of thousands of additional women on top of the already discriminated against waspi women, might be owed money because the government decided not to tell them that they had to apply for an uplift!

Sure thing! Granny can’t wire in the stereo but you expect her to go to the deep recesses of the web like a 1990s “hacker” montage, just to find out that she’s to fill in some obscure form for an uplift that has know need to have a form to get the uplift, because the Government holds all the data necessary to confirm automatically that a person should have such an entitlement, and apply it automatically!

This is something that actually really pisses me off about the DWP. I mean it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if a person has been awarded highest rate on both components of Personal Independence Payment, it’s probably a good bet that they qualify for the components of UC or ESA which are apportioned to those unable to work. Sure! That might mean a few people will end up with some extra benefits, but you can pay for it with the money you save from processing all those bloody forms and letters that you make people complete for a 22p a week increase. Oh I’m sorry! You’re right! 34p. Woopdy doo!

Sorry. Got a little side tracked there. Anyway, as I was saying, maths is the key. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if claimant A qualifies for components B and C on benefit D, that they should also qualify for benefit E or component F….as in [redacted due to potential breach of Section 127 of the Communications Act.

It’s this land of a thousand forms nonsense. It is wholly unecessary, and sure you might be able to stiff a few people off of benefits in order to appeal to the psychopathic urges of your fanbase, but seriously? It costs the Government more, it costs the taxpayer more; and ultimately it ends up costing even more in the long run when you have to pay out more because of the court order and the 50,000 pissed off grannies who had to drag your party through the courts just to enforce rights which should be automatic from birth, and not subject to change depending on which asshole is currently residing in a run-down flat in Downing Street. (I hear that in honour of her possibly husband, she’s gone for alpaca sheek as the decorating theme). What people need to understand (and this is the point at which you are realising that this was not going where you thought it was when you first clicked onto this page), what people need to understand is that DWP forms cost live’s.

Yes! The takeaway of this articles purpose has been revealed: Forms Cost Lives. Or should that be #FormsCostLives.

I’m not talking about a work capability assessment form suddenly becoming possed and taking out claimants like some russian mafia boss – namely strapping them down and playing kalinka on repeat for 12 hours (inside joke). For the non russians who don’t get that one, think about joe pasqualle on repeat for 12 hours. You’d be willing to vote tory. Confession time, I once had the sudden urge that I might vote for the conservatives. It turned out just to be acid reflux.

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Andrews liver salts – For all your electoral needs!

But I digress. What I mean when I say that Forms Kill, is that the administrative barriers and mess that is the application for benefits, combined with the horrid loopholes and deliberate omissions of protections and reasonable income levels, end up depriving people of a lifeline. That small deprivation may only be £10 between what they would have got, compared to what they did get. So Wendy at number 45 who is 73 years old and has 12 grandchildren, doesn’t have to make the choice between food and keeping the heat up in minus 10 degree weather during a Scottish Winter.

It makes absolutely no sense to have an administrative system which costs more to run, than the savings made by ensuring every single person is on the correct benefits (down not up). It’s like the police turning up to a burglary with 3/4 of the officers in the country. Overkill.

The only reason that a state would deliberately create so many barriers to claiming such uplifts and components of benefit, is that they are exploting something much more sinister. It’s called (ironically) “left-sided bias”. That’s not a political term before anyone asks, it’s actually a psychology one. I read about it recently in my research for a court case against NHS Fife about 15 years of discrimination as a result of 5 different types of bias.

Left-sided bias is the same phenomina that we’ve all experienced when we go to buy a TV or something at the shop. Now I knew about this prior to finding out what it was called, or indeed how pervasive it is in statistical terms, because it is actively used in retail as a matter of course. Imagine the normal shelf in a store, you look and you see the prices. The one thing that you may see is that most of the products are odd numbers. They end with things like 49 rather than 50. Or 95, or 99, rather than an even pound.

People are told this is due to VAT issues and tax etc. However, its not that much of a difference tax wise for a company the size of a supermarket, they pay less in tax than betty at number 22, it’s actually a method to fiddle with your mind, because it is human nature to blindly see 8.99 being closer to 8.00 than it is to 9.00. It creates the perception of something being cheaper than it is.

It’s also pervasive in medicine. For instance, studies have shown that Sarah at number 9 would be less likely to get a coronary heart bypass because she’s 80, compared to bob at number 67 because he’s only 79.

In the case of the tories- “ach! I wont bother going through the fuss of applying for an uplift because it’s only £8.49 (arbitrarily chosen number). It’s more hassle than it’s worth!”.

That’s not apathy. That is left sided bias – but the Tories portray it as apathy of the person who should have claimed. “We cannot be blamed if a person did not get off their ass and claim”. In reality there was no real action to inform people that their claim was changing (Waspi) and there is no contact in advising people that they qualify for an uplift or even another component.

This is the issue with governments, both in Scotland and in Westminster. They are only concerned with the distance between elections, because anything positive beyond that, if their opposition are elected, they would then take credit for those positives and that could result in your party not being returned for another decade. This is the tick tock of British Politics. It swings one way until the English Electorate get so pissed off, they decide to vote for the other twats.

And so barriers are put up in order to put people off claiming, or to deny them benefits, or to put arbitrary rules and procedures that cost more in the long term, just to make expenditure look lower in the short term.

The reality is that thinking like that only means that nothing will get any better. Nothing will change. There’s no incentive to deliver a lasting positive change, except maybe in Scotland where the opposition are so crap, they would lose against an out of date tin of heinz beans. The problem is that the people that most need the help in this country are being let down, because there’s nobody in parliament who actually understands them.

I don’t want a health minister who studied politics (no offense Hamsa) – I want the nurse who once delivered a baby in the middle of a snowdrift, in the back of a transit van with nothing more than boot laces and warm hands. The type who think that travelling to warzones is a family vacation. Not the ass kissers, I want the nurse who keeps fluctuating between auxiliary and charge nurse because she’s been demoted 3 times for answering the question: “what do you think?” with exactly what she thinks! The type of nurse that makes junior doctors run for cover when they see her walking down the street. Battered and bruised by a faulty system, has been at her witts end multiple times, has experienced the highs and lows of medicine; and through it all has never lost her sense of humour.

The woman I just described does exist. She exists all over Scotland. I know because the woman I just described is my mother. A nurse of 28 years, being trained to take over at nursing director level (or the equivelant to it) but had to retire due to M.S, which at that point she’d been able to resist for years, having retired in 1997 and having been diagnosed with M.S in 1984.

Her reason for retiring was not because of her own wellbeing, she retired because she could no longer feel her hands properly. Two many relapses had left her unable to feel things properly. The result being that she no longer trusted herself handling newborns (she was a g-grade sister midwife). Did that stop her? No! She went on to become a blackbelt at Karate, she begun working for the Citizens Advice voluntarily. She worked with SCPR, the precursor to NatCen.

Even in 2018, a consultant from Fife who worked with her in the borders remarked: “She used to scare the junior doctors and would go toe to toe with consultants for her patients. Scary woman!”

My mother is 5ft 4. It may be that my memories, so many years later of what my mother was. The reflections of an adult looking back to childhood and the inherent bias that comes with it. But she helped setup maternity facilities in impoverished countries when she wasn’t doing further charity work, and even when her own body stopped her from doing what she wanted to do, she became a volunteer, going up against the DWP, and landlords, and supporting women escaping horrific violence. I’m fortunate, i’ve never had the experience, or been given the impression of women being the “weaker sex”, because I have a mother who could sink ships with the lasers from her eyes (that’s an analogy, meant to purvey the fact that my mother had an attitude of “mon then!”, to her work, against her M.S, to experiencing the world.

8 years old, my father calls my mother to see where she is. “London” she proclaims! “London?!?!?” was the obvious response from my father. To which she responded: “Yeah! We dropped family off at the airport, they have a stopover in London, I asked Martin if he wanted to go on a plane for the first time?”. I was never spoilt as a child, but at that time my mother had a good job. Each purchase was carefully thought out (usually) and had to have a specific purpose. In this case, she knew I loved aviation. She saw an opportunity to expose me to a new experience which she knew would support my goals, and this is how she operated with her staff and her patients.

Then she got dementia when we moved to Fife, the first signs of her having moved from relapse and remit M.S to secondary progressive; and I was left to deal with the day to day. So in addition to being a carer, I am also having to vicariously experience her side of the coin as well, functioning as her proxy.

Her view of the world and ensuring experiences of that world for me is what made me go into studying engineering. It is was pushed me forward to sit in that seat for the first time and learn to fly. The experiences of dealing with so many agencies gives me a viewpoint of where the system is failing. I assisted others with DWP claims, and this led me to my interest in law and politics in general. Her good times inspired, her bad experiences informed.

She is a WASPI woman.

The system needs to change. We need to find a way to get rid of the forms and the impediments that are there only for political expediance and to refocus our departments of state into the pursuit of ensuring that such impediments are dealt with through more refined processes. We need to create a system where policians are incentivised, not to look in isolation at singular issues, but to the wider picture and the long-term.

This latest Scandal is estimated that up to 10,000 women have been deprived because theres no such thing as a duty of care by this state – and that needs to stop. Their failure to notify, to give due regard and automate the process to inform about entitlements, is about to cost the taxpayer £650m in back payments.

In March the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that some 200,000 people, including certain married women, widows and over-80s could be in line for payouts totalling £2.7bn after admitting administrative errors meant they had been underpaid their state pension for up to two decades. This now means that there’s an additional £650m to go onto of that bill.

All caused by some politician making the decisions a few terms ago which delivered short term political expedience. It’s not good enough, and if we’re at the stage where the UK Government is willing to save a few quid today, just to be hit with a bill for billions in the long run, then they are not fit and proper guardians of general taxation.

Probably best at this point to say enough is enough and put the Scottish Tax Base where it belongs, in the hands of a Government where its cabinet is filled with people who’ve actually done the jobs they are overseeing, and in a Scottish National Bank without Westminster being able to put its grimey hands all over it.


Email : martin@martinjkeatings.com

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