A half hour Channel 4 dispatches program, Britain on the Sick, aired July 30, 2012, made for shocking viewing. Having heard our Coalition witter on about people fiddling benefits and wrongly claiming sickness benefit you may have thought it would feature "scroungers". Those people who abuse the system and live a life of luxury on the "sick"
Well we are not naive enough to not know that such people exist. However we also know that the majority of people who are not fit for work are just that. Not fit for work.
A Dispatches undercover doctor joined a team for training to assess those trying to claim sickness benefit. The firm which does the assessing is French firm Atos. It seems that as the coalition try to boot people off welfare and save money they are wasting money using a French company rather than one in the UK.
The training was an eye opener. The trainer was not, by her own admission, a properly qualified Doctor. As she explained the grounds for declaring fit to work, one wondered if any person is ever assessed as unfit. The scoring system is such that if the patient is blind and can read basic braille, enough to read a safety sign, they will be deemed fit.
The UK Work Capability Assessment has improved lately, according to the government. Doctors however hold a different opinion. Some of the patients included in the program were blind, receiving Chemotherapy, on regular morphine pain treatment, and in a wheelchair. All were deemed fit for work.
This cunning plan to remove people from welfare has been ongoing for some years. It started with reducing unemployment benefit from one year to six months. As this was paid for by way of National Contributions this was the first "rip off"
Then the tightening of eligibility for sickness benefit began.The sole purpose of the current assessment is to declare people fit for work. There are few jobs and UK unemployment is high. Of course once removed from sickness benefit unemployment may not be payable, The callous trainer explained though that once removed from sickness benefit it was someone elses problem, namely a job centre adviser.
Of course those assessors shown in Dispatches may have not been the norm, but we doubt it. A representative from DWP, department of work and pensions declined an interview. Assurances were made along with promises that checks would be made and if necessary changes.
Welfare is a safety net. We all never know when we may need it. We all hope that we will never need it. However should the worst happen it is comforting to know that you are not out on a limb. Sadly that will no longer be true.
Vulnerable and honest people will be intimidated away from claiming what they have paid for. That has to be wrong.
In 2012 there have been many calls from disabled people, charities, doctors and more to scrap the work capability assessment scheme as it stands. All have said the scheme is responsible for sending the sick and the disabled back to work, or rather unemployment.
It is funny that a government which has U Turned more times than a learner driver, is unable to do so when it comes to the sick and the disabled. Now if it concerned the wealthy they would not have a problem doing so.
It seems that the knives are out for Michelle Obama following Friday's Olympic bash, held at Buckingham Palace. Mrs Obama represented her country at the event and so it would only be fitting that she looked the part. Whilst many in her country struggle to make ends meet that may seem crass. However it is much the same with all countries and their leaders. When they attend such functions they aim to stand out from the crowd.
Of course Ms Obama could have toned down her garb and gone for a more simplistic outfit. We wonder then what the press would have said. No doubt she would have been criticised for dressing inappropriately, causing offence to the Queen and the UK, or shaming the USA. She was after all in a no win position, unless you are a Democrat and Obama supporter.
She was damned either way. Would wearing sackcloth and ashes have helped? No.
It is funny how so often it is the wives of leaders who are lambasted, when all they are is an unelected Presidential, or Prime Ministerial wife. If the roles were reversed would it be the same? We think not
How often do you hear Mr Clinton has got fat, Mitt Romney has a big chin, Mr Biden dresses in suits that are too expensive and more. You get the point by now we assume.
The fact that wives of leaders are singled out for personal attacks is sexist. If it does not happen to husbands, such as Bill Clinton or Dennis Thatcher it has to be.
The Olympic Banquet on Friday included a host of so called dignitaries. All were vying for media attention. None would court "bad press". Michelle Obama was also representing her husband and one assumes hoping to prove that both he and she are excellent ambassadors for the USA.
Perhaps if she wants to appease her critics she could auction said outfit, and others from the UK tour, for a charity back home. That of course would be up to her. It also depends who stumped up the cash for the clothes.
Banquets such as the one in question have no place in the 21st Century, really. However as long as they exist they will be used to bolster political campaigns and more. For the UK it was about showing our strengths.
In the US people such as Rush Limbaugh will continue to criticise Mrs Obama, not because she needs to be criticised but because she is seen as fair game. She is seen as a way to hit the President and his election campaign. Employing pathetic tactics though is cheap.
Perhaps some of the criticism however smacks of envy. After all Michelle Obama during her UK visit last week proved herself more of an American ambassador than Mitt Romney. He fell far short of the mark.
Mitt Romney has left the UK. His brief stay was mainly about fundraising with publicity thrown in. It is fair to say he came, he saw, he gaffed. Before he even left the US his mouth was running off about the UK and their Olympic efforts. He may have been taken out of context, or read wrong, but he showed he is not Statesman material. Not yet that is. He may prove to be should he be elected as US President in November 2012 but that remains to be seen.
He has now left the UK and is already in Jerusalem. Once more it is all about fund raising. When politicians travel abroad to raise funds you have to ask why? Then of course you have to answer that they are selling the role of President or selling power.
What is unsettling about Romney's Jerusalem fund raiser is that it will be held behind closed doors. If we were feeling generous we may assess that is being done to prevent Mitt putting his foot squarely in his mouth once more. If we were being more realistic we would assume that deals will be brokered. Deals that may not sit well with the US electorate.
Of course once Romney has stuffed his campaign coffers to overflowing he will be one step closer being elected as POTUS45.
Currently there is the usual pre election spin and propaganda doing the rounds online and in the media. President Obama is being painted as something of a Dark Lord by some and Romney as a Fool by others. Your political leanings and social standing may determine which description you believe, if any.
The fund raiser is being held at the King David Hotel. No media representatives will have access. Back in April 2012 Mitt Romney's team negotiated some basic rules regarding his future fund raising events. Blocking the media from his Jerusalem fund raiser violates those rules. Prior to today the only Romney fundraisers that blocked the media were held in private residencies. The King David Hotel is not a private residence.
Guests who will be attending the Monday fund raiser include Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Sheldon has personally pledged to boost the Romney campaign by millions of dollars. Now why would Sheldon do that?
The Monday fund raiser will include many wealthy individuals who will have flown in from the US. The only conclusion is that they want the chance to listen to Mitt without press intrusion. Listen to the real Mitt that is.
Mitt is no stranger to yo-yo politics. In the past he has changed his tune many times to suit those listening in. The Washington Post has reported that: At a closed-press fundraiser in Florida this spring, reporters from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, without Romney’s knowledge, overheard the candidate outline new tax policy proposals and suggest that he might dramatically downsize the Department of Education and eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Well that says it all. Let's hope someone spills the beans after this Jerusalem shindig is over. Prior to the fundraiser Mr Romney is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is visiting the UK and the Middle East this week, as part of his ongoing transformation into World Leader. Whether the US electorate will agree and vote him into the White House in November 2012 remains to be seen.
Currently both sides, that is the Democrats and the Republicans, are attempting to carry out a thorough character assassination of each candidate. In addition both of their track records in business is under the microscope. With more than a touch of spin both candidates appear to be left wanting. If you were to believe both camps the only conclusion would be that neither are fit to rule a hen-house let alone the USA.
The US electorate will "pick the bones" out of the propaganda and choose their man for the next four years. If it is President Obama he is now a recognised figure on the World Stage. It is Mitt Romney he is a newbie.
Still we all have to start somewhere and Mitt's six-day tour this week will give him valuable exposure and experience.
We well remember President Obama visiting the UK when he was in this position. He appeared charismatic, winning fans from all walks of life. We also remember Obama's assessment of David Cameron, the then leader of the opposition. It was that Cameron was a "lightweight". In due course Dave Cameron became the UK's PM dealing with President Obama many times. Now they appear equally respectful of each other.
When Romney visits the UK will he meet with the opposition as well as members of the Coalition Government. If the past is anything to go by he should.
Mitt will visit Britain, Israel and Poland in all. It will be his first overseas official tour since becoming heir apparent to the US Presidential role. His visit will include propaganda and spin speeches aimed at undermining President Obama. Mr Obama will no doubt reciprocate on the home front. Romney's team will cry foul and on it goes. Like reality TV that is out of control.
Romney's election campaign now has the capability to outspend Barack Obama's. If money wins the day in America he could be home and dry. He may have a good track record in big business but he is far from open and transparent.
Wonder what we in the UK will make of this one?
Romney has been attacked by the Obama camp for his apparent lack of knowledge as regard to World affairs. He will therefore have a lot to prove and no doubt will attempt to put the record straight. He is due to attend to opening of the Olympics on Friday, July 27, and meet various Ministers. One of these will be Chancellor George Osborne. It is expected that these two will have plenty in common, not least a desire to implement austerity.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog
Check out the NEW TEKJournalismUK here
Animal matters at Beyond Four Legged Friends
Archives at TEKJournalismUK
Green Fingers from NEW TEKJournalismUK
Cookery at TEK Journalism UK here
Find our Christmas pages here
And our travel reports here
On this day in History