Major hospitals have missed A&E targets EVERY WEEK for six months
Many major hospitals have missed their national accident and emergency target every week for the last six months, it has been claimed.
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, said that major A&E units across England have failed to meet the target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours. This has been the case every week since late September.
His claims come after one A&E department in Norfolk was this week forced to erect an emergency tent outside because it was so overcrowded.
Mr Burnham said new data from NHS England shows the 95 per cent target has been missed across the NHS, with less than 70 per cent of patients being seen within four hours at some trusts.
He said that compared to last year, 107,000 more patients have had to wait longer than four hours. ‘Standards of care are deteriorating in many parts of the country as the NHS is dragged down by David Cameron’s toxic mix of cuts and re-organisation,’ said Mr Burnham.
‘England’s A&E departments are suffering their worst winter for a decade, with thousands more people waiting longer to be seen across the country.
‘The NHS has failed to hit the target almost the entire time Jeremy Hunt has been Health Secretary. He urgently needs to get a grip and focus on what matters.
‘Almost 5,000 nursing jobs have been lost since David Cameron entered Downing Street. Ministers must develop a plan to bring all A&Es in England back up to national standards.’
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘The NHS is seeing an extra one million patients in A&E compared to two years ago and despite the additional workload it is coping well.
‘Patients shouldn’t face excessive waits for treatment, which is why we provided £330 million to help the NHS cope with the extra pressure the cold weather brings.
‘The Government is meeting its promise to deliver a real terms increase in health spending and there are now 7,000 more professionally qualified clinical staff in the NHS since 2010. In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 18,000, and the money saved put back into frontline patient care.’
Mr Burnham’s comments come just after it emerged that patients in Norfolk faced the prospect of being treated in a tent on Monday after an A&E department became overcrowded.
A treatment tent, usually reserved for use during major emergencies, was erected outside Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital as a precaution but it was not needed to treat patients.
One ambulance crewman said: ‘We are so fed-up with getting slated and being made to look as if the ambulance service is to blame for the delays – but it’s not us, it’s A&E. ‘They want to get out and save lives. That’s all they want to do and they are getting caught up in a political row.
‘The tent is usually used at plane crashes and big events, such as the Lord Mayor’s parade. To put it up outside the A&E is unheard of.’
Another ambulance worker, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘It’s a mini-hospital in a tent.’ ‘It will usually have in it treatment bays, drugs, oxygen, the same stuff on board an ambulance but inside a tent – which is a lot colder.’
Hospital chief executive Anna Dugdale said: ‘The demand on emergency services over the bank holiday weekend had been exceptionally high and the ambulance tent was erected for a short period as a precautionary measure.’
How foreign ‘health tourists’ are bleeding the NHS dry: Damning whistleblowers’ testimony exposes how they fraudulently get free treatment worth hundreds of millions a year
Professor Meirion Thomas of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, has now sent shockwaves through the medical and political establishment with an excoriating public attack on what has become of Bevan’s beloved NHS 65 years after its inception.
Professor Thomas has worked in the NHS for 43 years and his verdict on how the service is being bled dry by immigration is damning.
‘The rules and regulations laid down by the Department of Health governing eligibility for free NHS care are so porous and difficult to enforce that they can be easily breached,’ he said in the Spectator magazine.
He added that overseas patients do not come here for trivial ailments, but for problems which require lengthy and expensive treatment.
‘The usual reason is a serious illness recently diagnosed in their home country which has poor or unreliable medical services, or where the best care is expensive and has to be paid for,’ he explained. Professor Thomas added: ‘There are stories of heavily pregnant women arriving because childbirth qualifies for emergency care.
‘There are tales of families relocating because a child has a severe congenital or acquired illness, of large numbers of patients with HIV coming to the UK because that is their only hope of getting effective treatment, even of patients arriving at Heathrow airport with kidney failure and being blue-lighted to hospital in an ambulance for dialysis.’
Professor Thomas’s article prompted sympathetic responses from other doctors, who praised his courage in speaking out and confirmed the growing problem.
His views were welcomed by Nicholas Soames and Frank Field, the Tory and Labour MPs who co-chair the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration and who have warned of a public backlash if the problem of health tourism is not taken seriously.
‘We most warmly commend the courage of Professor Meirion Thomas in lifting the lid on the appalling abuse of the NHS by foreign visitors,’ they wrote in a letter. ‘It has been going on for years but has been covered up by the culture of fear’.
The two MPs revealed that the problem of health tourism has been ‘out to consultation since 2004’ — almost a decade — yet nothing has happened.
David Cameron addressed the problem in a recent speech in Ipswich, when he said that the NHS should be ‘a free national health service, not a free international health service’.
He said changes to health care would be introduced, with the UK getting better at ‘reciprocal charging’ — which means charging foreign governments for treatment provided to non-working overseas nationals. ‘Wherever we can claim back the cost of NHS care, we will,’ he said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the ‘known’ cost of the problem was between £10 million and £20 million a year. However, Jeremy Hunt said estimates placed the figure at ‘£200 million’, adding: ‘I think it’s significantly more than that.’
New figures obtained by the Mail following a number of Freedom of Information requests show the enormous scale of the problem.
They reveal that, in the past two years, patients from Africa, Asia and even the U.S. have been using NHS hospitals throughout Britain, often leaving tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid medical bills each — bills which have to be picked up by the taxpayer.
Unless it is an emergency or childbirth, rules stipulate that foreigners must pay for their treatment, although the law is so opaque that in most cases they contribute nothing to their hospital care.
At Imperial College Hospital Trust in London, a Nigerian clocked up £320,000 when she had a baby with complex health problems in the paediatric care unit. At Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust, a pregnant woman from Mauritius received lengthy maternity care and is still being chased for the £60,000 cost of her treatment.
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust is owed for a £60,591 bill for HIV treatment given to an American, while an Egyptian who had extremely complicated hernia treatment at Kingston Hospital in Surrey left without paying the £61,600 bill.
In Liverpool, the Walton Medical Centre performed brain surgery on another American and is owed £14,706 for his medical fees, medicines and hospital care. He has scarpered without trace.
It is not only hospitals that are facing these problems. Doctors’ surgeries also suffer.
The extraordinary laxity of the system means thousands of health tourists cheat the system easily by coming to Britain to visit relatives who have moved here, then registering with a local GP and slipping into the system.
Dr Peter Graves, chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Local Medical Committee, complained: ‘Those of us who pay our taxes do not expect to see precious NHS resources abused by people coming in from abroad when they have never paid anything into the NHS.’
Dr Graves, who represents 500 doctors, said one of his fellow Bedfordshire GPs had ‘thousands of patients on his list who entertain friends and relatives from Pakistan, India and other Asian countries and who come to England for the sole purpose of accessing free healthcare. The situation is well recognised as a problem across the country.’
Eighteen months ago, the Home Office introduced new rules to try to stop the cheating. Anyone from outside the EU who owes the NHS more than £1,000 can now be refused a visa to enter Britain until the debt is paid.
Ministers confidently declared that this would recoup 94 per cent of the outstanding charges owed by foreigners for NHS medical treatment and deter others from coming here to do the same.
Their confidence is both naive and misplaced. When I rang the Home Office and asked how many NHS debtors had been stopped at our borders or refused a visa since the new rules were brought in, I was met with a long silence.
Officials were unable — or unwilling — to answer, raising suspicions that the culprits have neither been barred from returning to the UK nor been asked to pay up.
Indeed, it appears that nothing has changed at all despite government promises.
One telling response to Professor Thomas’s concerns came from an unnamed NHS ‘Doctor E’ who said he works at a hospital near Heathrow airport.
‘If you ask anybody who works in the NHS they will tell you the same thing,’ he wrote. ‘Every single week I see people who have been flown in from all over the world with a great variety of extremely serious health problems. Many of these people had to be wheel-chaired on to the plane because they were too unwell to walk on board.’
He said he had recently admitted two foreign patients to intensive care who were both reported to be ‘semi-conscious’ at the overseas airport when they boarded the plane for Britain.
‘We often have our intensive care unit full of patients without NHS numbers who are there for weeks or months at a time with no means or intention to pay. These people do not have credit cards or health insurance,’ he added.
‘It does not matter where your politics lie, the truth remains that the NHS does not have a bottomless pit of money and this small island simply cannot afford to fund complex and long-term healthcare needs of the rest of the world.’
Now British teachers demand to work just 35 hours a week… and they even want to be allowed to do five of those at home
Teachers worldwide seem to be Prima Donnas
Teachers demanded a 20-hour a week limit on classes yesterday to maintain a healthy ‘work/life balance’.
Union members called for a rigid 35-hour week, with little more than half given over to teaching children.
Five hours would be used for planning, preparation and assessment ‘at a time and place of the teacher’s choosing’ – meaning at home in most cases.
The remaining ten hours would be set aside for other ‘non-contact’ duties including marking and going to meetings.
The proposal came at the end of a heated eight-day period during which annual conferences held by three teaching unions were used to repeatedly attack the policies of Education Secretary Michael Gove.
The working hours motion of the National Union of Teachers – which was passed by an overwhelming majority and will be linked to planned strikes over pay, pensions and conditions – would mean teachers taking classes for just four hours a day on average. Many schools would have to hire extra staff, putting greater pressure on budgets.
Cutting teaching workloads is one of the demands in the current dispute with Mr Gove that has led to a series of regional strikes from this summer, followed by a national strike before Christmas.
Critics were swift to accuse the union of being ‘out of touch’ with reality. Craig Whittaker, a Tory MP on the Commons education select committee, said: ‘You can’t change these things in the current economic climate.
‘It just shows how incredibly out of touch the unions are with what’s going on in the real world.’
Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said teachers should have their hours ‘expanded, not diminished’. He added: ‘In the independent sector it is normal to have 60 hours of contact time a week. They are living in fantasy land if they want 20 hours per week.’
He said the hours of work should be made less stressful by giving them greater powers to suspend or exclude disruptive pupils. The NUT saved its bombshell for the last motion of its five-day conference in Liverpool. Cambridgeshire primary school teacher Richard Rose said: ‘We’re fed up with arriving at 7.45am … and most people are there until 6.30pm.
‘During that time there is no time to go to eat, no time to talk, no time to think, no time even to go to the toilet in many cases.
‘Then, after the day’s work, what do you do when you get home? Do you relax? I’m sure you all know – another two, three, four hours of work. The number of emails you get after midnight, people sending each other plans, targets, data, things like that is incredible.’
Teachers were sacrificing time with their own children, he said, adding: ‘If you complain to management about that they say “Maybe teaching’s not for you then”.’
Adarsh Sood from Lewisham in South-East London said: ‘We will fight in all the ways we can to win a model contract which clearly defines the weekly limits on working hours for teachers.’
Earlier in the day, delegates chanted: ‘Gove must go’ as they passed a motion of no confidence in the Education Secretary.
Teachers are contracted to work 195 days every year, with five set aside for training.
They typically spend 22.5 hours taking classes each week, meaning the proposal would significantly reduce contact time.
But they complain contracts include a clause to carry out ‘reasonable additional hours’, meaning they end up working longer.
Coventry delegate Christopher Denson said official figures showed secondary school teachers work 50.2 hours per week on average and primary school colleagues give 49.9 hours of their time.
He added: ‘It is essential that what is already NUT policy for a 35-hour week becomes a reality.’
The NUT and NASUWT are holding a series of regional strikes followed by a national strike later this year over pay, pensions and conditions. Some teachers are already operating on a work-to-rule basis.
The working hours motion – during which teachers also called for smaller class sizes – is the latest point of friction between teachers and Mr Gove.
They have also clashed with him over issues such as changes to the curriculum and the end of modular qualifications. The Department for Education said it was for schools to organise the hours and workloads of staff.
A spokesman added: ‘By scrapping unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy we are making it easier than ever before for teachers to focus their efforts on teaching and learning.’
Tell youngsters the truth: the UK needs you to work not go to university
There is little that is more likely to lead to ruined lives than groupthink in politics, especially when it is imposed by a well-meaning, over-enthusiastic Establishment convinced that it is doing the right thing.
Tragically, as yet more data reveal, the decision to massively increase the number of school-leavers going to university, wrongly assuming that this would transform opportunity in an era of technological revolution, ranks as one of the greatest social and industrial policy blunders of recent decades.
Britain is facing a jobs crisis made in Downing Street and signed off by the leaders of all political parties, starting with Sir John Major, during the past quarter century. The problem is not the number of new jobs – there are lots of those, confounding the sceptics, and could be even more if the labour market doesn’t become over-regulated. The issue is that an obscenely large number of young people with a university education will not be able to find a job that matches their expectations.
Research from the US government, which without doubt applies equally to Britain, suggests that just one out of the top nine occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade requires a university degree.
The picture is truly dire for the army of university graduates: only five of the top 30 fastest-growing occupations expected to create the most jobs by 2020 require an undergraduate degree (or an additional post-graduate qualification) – nursing, teachers in higher education, primary school teachers, accountants and medical doctors – and 10 of the top 30 don’t require any kind of qualification at all.
Among the top 10 fastest-growing professions are retail sales staff; food preparation (including fast-food restaurant jobs); customer service reps; labourers and freight, stock, and material movers; lorry and van drivers; and various healthcare aides, related to the ageing population. This is the semi-secret, and devastating, story that far too few people in government want to talk about.
The horrible truth is that central planning never works: just as the authorities cannot possibly know how many widgets an economy ought to produce, or what the “right” price for goods will turn out to be, they cannot possibly know many decades in advance what skills will be required, or what percentage of school-leavers should go to university. It is hard to fathom what Tony Blair was thinking when he promised that half of 18-year-olds would go to university. The result has been betrayal, broken dreams, graduates working in coffee shops, a business community that still cannot find the right people with the right soft and hard skills, and a generation of young people crumbling under ever larger student debts. It’s a social catastrophe for which nobody has yet paid the price; even worse, it remains politically unacceptable for those in a position of power to point any of this out.
The figures predicting where new jobs are going to come from were uncovered by Mark J Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, who analysed the US Bureau of Labour Statistics’ official employment projections in a short note published recently by the American Enterprise Institute. Most Western economies face a similar problem. They confirm what many in Britain already knew: many young graduates are in jobs where a degree is not necessary, a situation which is getting worse. The oversupply of graduates, especially from those institutions in the lower reaches of the league tables, and those with degrees in areas not directly relevant to firms, has substantially distorted the market.
To many employers, university education has become little more than a signalling device, a means to filter out potential staff. To others, it is seen as a remedial device, there to fill in the gaps left by state education. The result has been an inflation of entry requirements, with positions once open to plucky 16-year-olds now requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s, even though the actual work hasn’t changed one jot.
There are, of course, caveats. There will still be plenty of qualified jobs, but regrettably their supply is not growing as quickly. Many of the more specialist, skilled jobs, such as those in IT, are divided into numerous categories, such as programmers, developers, network administrators, security analysts and so on – and are therefore ranked further down the list. Grouping them together would rebalance the picture a little.
Many jobs will genuinely require university degrees, especially those with quantitative and mathematical skills, and of course it is essential that children of all backgrounds who have the interest and ability to study for a degree be given the opportunity to do so. But if we really care about social mobility, and ensuring that people are able to live their dreams, we need an urgent shift in policy.
Britain needs more, better, skilled jobs – and that means making the UK more welcoming as a base for firms in areas such as technology, science, finance and high value added business services.
The onslaught against the City, which is crippling it rather than seeking to make it more resilient, will merely reduce the availability of good jobs.
The answer is not more top-down planning of the sort that gave us our higher education crisis, with politicians choosing sectors they guess will create the “right” sort of jobs, but a broad policy to encourage global firms to base their best-paid positions in the UK, and to trade and export from our shores.
That means low tax rates and living costs, a better business climate and enhanced infrastructure and airport links; sadly, we are faring miserably in all areas.
Britain also needs to do more to promote entrepreneurship, including welcoming job-creators from overseas.
We need to raise productivity levels, enabling workers to be paid more; mechanisation and technology kill jobs in the short term, but eventually boost output per worker and hence average wages, and are thus a good thing. The Government needs to continue reforming the welfare state to ensure that nobody is locked into a situation where it doesn’t pay to take a job.
Crucially, the UK must focus on improving the knowledge and skills of school-leavers, currently all too often heart-breakingly inadequate, eventually reducing the need for as many to go to university. The reforms being pursued by Michael Gove are an excellent first step, but it is a tragedy that he isn’t being allowed to go faster and further.
Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications are essential: had politicians focused on these in recent decades, rather than on boosting university admissions at any cost, the prospects for Britain’s young would be very different today.
Most important of all, however, the political establishment needs to start telling our young people the truth: it doesn’t make sense for everybody to go to university.
NHS rules say do it immediately, but cutting the umbilical cord too early may be putting babies at risk
Amanda Burleigh is a midwife with a mission. She wants the official NHS clinical guidelines on childbirth to be changed, so that newborns’ umbilical cords are not clamped immediately, but are left attached for at least two to five minutes.
Ms Burleigh, a midwife for 16 years, has been busily lobbying Britain’s professional organisations to achieve this. Now she has launched a mass petition on the internet.
To many people, the precise time at which a baby’s umbilical cord gets clamped may sound like a niggling detail in the great drama of childbirth — or merely the obsessive stuff of hippy-dippy Earth mothers.
The umbilical cord connects the developing baby to the mother’s placenta, supplying it with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood. The practice of immediately clamping the cord after birth is currently widespread in NHS hospitals.
But, as Ms Burleigh points out in her petition, a growing weight of respected scientific research is linking early clamping with a host of serious developmental problems.
Independently published clinical studies and reports say that these may include anaemia, learning difficulties, ADHD, autism and even sudden death.
The scientific evidence convinced bodies such as the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to change their guidelines last November to recommend delaying clamping for around three minutes after delivery.
The Royal College of Midwives was inspired to make the change by a survey of clinical evidence published by the highly respected Cochrane Review. This came down in favour of delayed clamping — though it did say that doing so may increase the risk of the infants suffering from jaundice.
But the official NHS guidelines still state that the cord should be cut within 30 seconds. That guidance is set to remain unchanged for the time being.
In fact, immediate clamping of the umbilical cord is only a comparatively recent practice. In the 19th century, it was thought that it was better to delay clamping.
Charles Darwin’s grandfather, the physician Erasmus Darwin, wrote in 1801: ‘Very injurious to the child is the tying of the navel string too soon. It should be left till all pulsation in the cord ceases. Otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child.’
And even when the first commercial cord-clamping devices were advertised in the Lancet in the 1890s, the instructions directed that they should be applied only after the cord ceased to pulsate.
However, immediate cord clamping became widely adopted in the Fifties.
A theory emerged that it would help to minimise the amount of anaesthetic a baby might get from its mother’s blood. This theory has since been disproved, but in the highly medicalised world of modern healthcare, the practice continued to spread because it sped up the birthing process, and speed was considered to be key to efficiency.
Furthermore, no one actually challenged immediate clamping as dangerous. Ms Burleigh, a mother of two boys aged 16 and 19, began questioning the practice seven years ago.
‘I started thinking about the number of children I was encountering who had special educational needs including ADHD and health conditions such as asthma, allergies and hearing problems.’ When she looked into it, there seemed to be no good reason for cutting the cord immediately — and plenty of reasons against it.
In recent years expert reports have begun to link it to serious risks in childbirth and possibly in later life. Just over a year ago, a study in the British Medical Journal found that babies clamped early were significantly more likely to be anaemic at four months old than those whose clamping was delayed.
The lead researcher, Dr Ola Andersson, the chief physician at Halland Hospital in Sweden, says: ‘Iron deficiency in infants, even without anaemia, has been associated with impaired development, by altering the chemical preconditions in the brain. For instance, a recent study showed a link between iron deficiency and ADHD.’
Dr Andersson is now testing the children he studied to see if immediate clamping has indeed affected their development.
Back in 2007, the World Health Organisation was moved by emerging health worries about anaemia to reverse its guidance on early cord clamping and recommend a delay of up to three minutes instead.
That same year, an editorial in the British Medical Journal advised that the NHS should follow suit and change its official guidelines. These are written by the care watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
In 2010, this call for change was repeated in the same journal by Dr David Hutchon, a consultant obstetrician at Darlington Memorial Hospital. He warned that professionals and their leaders in the UK were being resistant to change, not least because of the NICE guidelines.
More recently, Dr Hutchon suggested early cord cutting may be linked to a child’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
He believes the sudden impact of immediate clamping may cause a shock wave in the baby’s natural blood supply that could then harm the baby’s brain — and in particular the part of the brain that controls their breathing. Such breathing problems have frequently been associated with SIDS.
That idea remains moot but certainly the latest Swedish evidence was sufficient to persuade the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to change its own guidelines. It now says delaying cord clamping by more than 30 seconds may help newborn babies by ‘reducing anaemia’, while premature babies may benefit because it allows ‘time for transfusion of placental blood’.
This was the reason Dr Andrew Gallagher, a consultant paediatrician at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, changed his unit’s policy on cord clamping. Two premature babies died on the unit in 2009 after they had to have blood transfusions.
‘It became clear to me that delayed cord clamping could have helped them,’ he says. ‘The blood contained in the placental cord comprises between a quarter to a third of a premature baby’s blood volume. If you clamp the cord immediately, the babies are effectively losing it. That blood belongs to them, but they are not given the opportunity to get it if the cord is immediately clamped after birth.’ Dr Gallagher is now a vocal supporter of changing the practice.
While some pioneering NHS maternity units such as Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust have changed their protocols so they don’t cut the cord for two minutes or more, nationally ‘early cord clamping is still routine among maternity staff’, according to an article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine last August.
For even though the midwives’ own professional organisation has reversed its position, this is not in itself sufficient to reverse national practice, says Jane Munro, a professional advisor at the Royal College of Midwives.
‘A change in the NICE guidelines is very important in ensuring widespread change of practice,’ she says. ‘Their guidance is a cornerstone of NHS practice.’
In fact, following years of pressure from leading health professionals and journals, NICE has agreed there is enough evidence for it to review the current guidelines. But this will not happen until October next year at the earliest.
However, Ms Burleigh, who works at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, says there’s no reason why action could not be taken now — and every day of delay may imperil some of the 2,000 or so babies who are born in Britain every day. Her campaign is backed by the Fertility and Birth Network, a collective of pregnancy and birth specialists, and the National Childbirth Trust.
In her latest move, she’s launched a petition to get NICE to make an immediate change.
‘Any delay from NICE is an unnecessary delay,’ Ms Burleigh says. ‘There is strong clinical evidence that, by changing practice now, we could make a difference to the those children who will be born in the UK between now and the review date.’
No, comrades. Welfare reform isn’t about hurting poor people. It’s about trying to make them richer
By Daniel Hannan
A collective madness has seized the BBC and our Left-wing papers. They cannot discuss the Coalition’s welfare reforms without an unfocused rage that no longer bears any relation to the facts.
‘Shameful’, was the Daily Mirror’s headline yesterday. ‘The Day Britain Changed’, announced the Guardian, listing the various benefits reductions that come into effect this month in as hysterical a tone as its self-regard permitted: housing benefit restricted for those with spare bedrooms; a universal credit to replace six existing out-of-work grants; a cap to ensure that getting a job is always more lucrative than claiming dole; and so on.
The BBC’s Today programme, meanwhile, gave Tory welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith a torrid time as he sought to defend his overhaul of the benefits system. The exchange was prefaced by an interview with a man complaining about cuts to his benefits, who now admits he was contacted after posting a very disobliging comment about the Prime Minister on the BBC website.
One Guardian comment piece called the welfare reforms ‘savage’, ‘cruel’ and — worst of all — ‘imported from the U.S.’ Another declared matter-of-factly that ‘the bedroom tax’ was ‘evidence that this government is either careless or actively cruel’.
Cruel, eh? By how much, then, do you suppose the welfare budget is being cut? Twenty per cent? Thirty? In fact, it is being slightly increased.
The total amount we spend on social protection currently stands at its highest ever: £220 billion in 2012. To give you an idea of how much that is, it more than soaks up all the revenue from income tax, council tax and business rates combined.
What the Government’s critics mean by ‘savage cuts’ is that welfare spending will increase very slightly this year.
The Left’s language is now so twisted that words have lost their ordinary meanings. The ‘bedroom tax’ is in fact a re-allocation of housing benefit away from people with spare rooms towards people without. Whatever else we call it, it’s not a tax. Yet the reduction in top-rate tax — which really is a tax — is called ‘writing a cheque to millionaires’.
Liam Byrne, the former Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury, even has the gall to describe the 45p top rate of tax as ‘a bonanza for the rich’. But what was the rate during all but the final month of Labour’s 13 years in office? Forty per cent.
Ponder the truly eye-popping fact that, during the lifetime of the Labour government, welfare spending rose by 60 per cent during an economic boom.
What the Left-wing media means by ‘cuts’ is really ‘slowing the rate of increase’. As Mr Duncan Smith, the minister in charge, put it yesterday: ‘All those on benefits will see cash increases in every year of the Parliament.’
This is in marked contrast to what is happening in several eurozone countries, such as Ireland and Spain, where actual cuts — in the sense of handing out less money than before — have been enacted.
Many traditional Labour supporters will have more sympathy with Mr Duncan Smith than with the alarmists who speak for their party. They know that, last year, benefits rose three times faster than salaries. They don’t see why, when pay is rising by one per cent on average, working-age benefits should go up faster.
Despite the shrillness of the professionally outraged — the lobby groups, the columnists, the bishops who say these changes are immoral — public opinion remains solidly behind Mr Duncan Smith. Or, rather, ahead of him.
According to a YouGov poll, three in four people, including a majority of Labour voters, want to see actual cuts in the welfare budget, whereas all Mr Duncan Smith is doing is holding it steady. The massive increases in welfare spending under the last government had the paradoxical effect of widening the gap between rich and poor, because they made welfare more attractive than work.
At a time when 200,000 foreigners were arriving every year, and walking into jobs, 900,000 working-age Britons were permanently economically inactive. The highest cost was not to the taxpayer, but to those who, slowly and dispiritedly, became reliant on the welfare state.
Nudging some claimants back into work need not be especially harsh. Simply announcing that people on incapacity benefits should be reassessed prompted more than 800,000 to come off the benefit rather than be re-tested. Another 800,000 have been passed as fit for some form of employment.
The massive increases in welfare spending under the last government had the paradoxical effect of widening the gap between rich and poor, because they made welfare more attractive than work
Testing claimants is hardly Dickensian. On the contrary, it is a return to the original principles on which William Beveridge established the welfare state 70 years ago. Beveridge would be mortified to see the way in which benefits which were intended to be temporary have become permanent, as people arrange their affairs around receiving them.
At the end of Gordon Brown’s term of office, an astonishing one in five British households had no one in work. Two million children were growing up in such homes.
Consider, for a moment, the impact on those children, and you will see that welfare reform is not about saving money, but about saving lives. Indeed, if saving money were our sole object, we might just as well send people cheques to stay in bed. Helping people into work is often, in the short term, more expensive than doling out cash.
But, as John F Kennedy put it, before the Left lost its moral compass on welfare, ‘the best route out of poverty is a secure job’.
More people are now in work than ever before in Britain. This is, of course, good news for taxpayers: more people are paying into the pot, fewer drawing from it.
But the biggest beneficiaries are those — like the 800,000 who came off incapacity benefits — who now have the prospect of jobs.
The last Labour government tested to destruction the idea that poverty could be eliminated through higher public expenditure. In some cases, welfare spending is actively harmful, because it keeps people off the first rung of the employment ladder. In others, it keeps them off the second rung: Gordon Brown’s almost incredible expansion of tax credits — up £171 billion in six years — paid firms to keep people on low salaries.
At last in Iain Duncan Smith we have a minister who understands that poverty is not simply an absence of money. Rather, it is bound up with a series of other factors: joblessness, low aspirations, family breakdown, substance abuse, poor qualifications.
It follows that you can’t cure poverty simply by giving money to the poor, any more than you can cure a drug addict by handing him a £20 note. You have to tackle the underlying problem.
Which is what the current reforms are about. Mr Duncan Smith is trying to shift the incentives, cutting taxes for the low paid and ensuring that work is more financially attractive than the dole.
It is a pity to see church leaders attacking his motives rather than engaging with the substance of what he is doing. Look at the situation he inherited, Your Graces: households with three generations of unemployment, defeated, demoralised and resentful.
Do you suppose that increasing benefits by 2.2 per cent, as Labour had planned, rather than by one per cent, would tackle these underlying problems? Surely the real measure of a successful welfare policy is that bills fall as poverty is reduced.
‘Why do you Tories hate poor people?’ ask Leftie agitators. We don’t hate poor people, comrades. We want to turn them into rich people. It’s your lot who trapped record numbers in the squalor of dependency — and thereby increased the number of Labour clients.
In one sense, the Guardian was right. Yesterday was a day Britain changed. For decades, governments sought to tackle poverty solely by spending more. Yet, as in almost every other field of state activity, the subsidies failed. Paying people to be poor increased the number of poor people.
Now, with a combination of help and hassle, ministers are seeking to push benefits claimants into work. A Conservative approach is being tried, and not before time. The alleviation of poverty is altogether too important to be left to the Left.
Police chief attacks his officer’s decision to sue garage owner over 999 call injuries saying her actions do not represent the majority of staff
The policewoman suing a garage boss after tripping over a kerb was publicly humiliated by her own chief constable yesterday.
Norfolk chief Phil Gormley said the actions of WPC Kelly Jones had undermined the public’s trust in the police. Her claim is a ‘disappointment’, he insisted, and does not represent the attitude of the ‘vast majority’ of officers.
Mr Gormley was under pressure to discipline WPC Jones as critics said her personal injury claim ‘brought discredit’ on his force.
She was last night considering abandoning the claim after talks between senior officers and her Police Federation representatives.
Mr Gormley made it clear he does not support WPC Jones, who is on sick leave over an unrelated medical problem. He said: ‘This doesn’t typify the attitude and behaviour of police officers either in Norfolk or nationally.
‘I’ve got hundreds of officers who perform first-class work across the county, responding to hundreds of thousands of calls a year. ‘So it is a disappointment to us and I do understand why it has caused such a public reaction. ‘In 27-and-a-half years in the service, this is the first time I have ever personally come across a set of circumstances like that.
‘The vast majority of officers perform their work brilliantly well, they are aware of the risks, and in fact many people are attracted by the risk and the variety of a police career.
It is surprising and disappointing I think for the majority of our staff that an incident like this has undermined confidence in how we do our job.’
WPC Jones, a divorced mother-of-two, remains in hiding at her parents’ home in Thetford, Norfolk. She triggered the row by asking a top London law firm to sue a garage owner after she fell over a 6ins kerb while answering a midnight call.
The officer hurt her wrist and leg and hopes to receive compensation after her lawyers accused Steve Jones of failing to ensure his premises was ‘reasonably safe’. The businessman, who is not related to her, has passed her claim to his insurers and fears his premium may rise as a result.
A former colleague of WPC Jones said: ‘We do not know how serious her injuries were. But she was certainly able to finish her shift.’
Further questions also remain over the role of the Police Federation in brokering the civil legal action by one of its members.
The national Federation pointed the finger at the branch which represents constables, while local representatives said they simply passed paperwork to lawyers. But yesterday the Daily Mail revealed frontline officers are receiving millions of pounds every year from personal injury claims from a Police Federation-backed service.
Lawyers behind the free claimline boast they have recovered £42million in the last two years alone after suing over slips and trips, workplace accidents and negligence.
Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, said WPC Jones’s behaviour was ‘appalling’ and ‘leaves me cold’.
WPC Jones tripped while investigating the break in at the Nunns Bridges Service Station in Thetford, Norfolk. Owner Steve Jones said it is example of the ‘fallacy that someone is to blame for every accident’ He said: ‘Of course, there are officers who deserve to receive help when they are injured in the course of duty and the public would readily support this. WPC Jones, I suspect, is not one of them.’
Henry Bellingham, Tory MP for North West Norfolk, called on the Home Secretary to ‘get a grip’ of the situation immediately.
He said: ‘Will a firefighter sue because they don’t like flames or a paramedic because they can’t stand blood? This threatens the fabric of our emergency services. ‘The public need to know they can have confidence that the police will investigate a crime without trying to sue them.’