THE RIGHT wing press seized on a judge's ruling last week against a refugee family from Lithuania living in Southwark, south London. The family were appealing for adequate housing. The Daily Express called the case 'asylum rip-off number one' and its front page screamed 'Proof Britain is a soft touch'. But the story will be familiar to ordinary people across Britain desperate to be rehoused.
Vladimiras and Ala Anufrijevas came to Britain in August 1998 with their three children and Ala's 84 year old grandmother, Matriona Kuzjeva. New Labour's Southwark council shoved them in a maisonette for six months. Within two weeks Matriona fell down the stairs and so did one of the children, breaking an arm. The family asked for housing which didn't have steps.
The council put in a handrail, which meant Matriona had difficulty getting downstairs and she was admitted to hospital with chest pain. Seven months later the council offered them a ground floor flat. But the bathroom was too small to meet Matriona's needs. Her health had worsened and she needed a carer.
The family applied for rehousing on medical grounds. The council suggested putting Matriona in a care home and offered a series of unsuitable accommodation (bed and breakfast accommodation or a smaller flat with an upstairs bathroom) before giving the family one month's eviction notice. By this time Matriona was in hospital. She died a few months later.
This tragic experience would normally inspire words of outrage. But the Daily Express ignored these facts in their desire to bash refugees.
Figure it out: 170k
170,000 young workers are denied the £3.80 minimum wage. Those aged 16 to 17 are excluded from the pay law. The Usdaw union says, 'Some are on pay rates as low as £1.33 an hour.'
This is very mean testing
NEW LABOUR is running TV ads to get pensioners to sign up for their complicated new pensions credit. Some 5.1 million households are supposedly eligible but only 100,000 households have applied.
The department of work and pensions claims 1.9 million households get the credit. But 1.8 million of these were automatically transferred onto the new scheme.
Many pensioners are put off by the means testing and huge forms, meaning many pensioners are still trapped in poverty.
Enron e-mails reveal truth
E-MAILS SENT to the Enron company just before the world's seventh wealthiest firm went bust in December 2001 have been published. One worker writes, 'I particularly like your adherence to core values... You screwed us all and got all the profits of our sweat. I hope that the board and upper management rot in jail and never see the light of day again-apart from when you are exercising in the open prison yard in your shackles.'
'Integrity' of sun shines
THE SUN tried to take the moral high ground over the recent football scandals. Its editorial on 10 October said, 'Fans are sick of overpaid players who behave on and off the field like violent foul-mouthed mindless louts. All players have a duty to behave responsibly and set a good example to the children who worship them.'
But its coverage of the clash between England and Turkey's football players read, 'England wonderkid Wayne Rooney THUMPED foul-mouthed Turk Alpay Ozalan to protect David Beckham, the Sun can reveal. Becks went after Alpay but it was Everton ace Rooney who put the yob in his place.'
New Labour's sick plans
EVER FELT like New Labour regards the unemployed as if they were not worth more than a tin of baked beans? Now this is official government policy. To try and force people off benefits the government is looking at the techniques supermarkets like Tesco use for their products.
It is called profiling. It identifies a particular group of people to target by using personal information about them. In Tesco's case they use it to market products to certain consumers. The New Labour pilot scheme is being aimed at people on incapacity benefit. Those the government decides have been claiming benefits for too long will be given 'intensive help'.
So watch out for the kind of 'help' that involves forcing men in their 50s and the sick into rotten jobs.
If the scheme is successful it could be extended to lone parents, all the unemployed and disabled people. Who says Blair doesn't have a big healthy heart?
Debt feeding frenzy
THE AMOUNT of debt being chased by bailiffs in Britain has soared by 70 percent over the last two years. The figure is now a record £5 billion, according to a report by Leeds University business school.
It shows the increase is almost entirely down to people falling behind on credit card and personal loan payments. A typical household owes £25,000, spread across an average of 15 different lenders, compared to £10,000 three years ago.
The number of individuals under threat from debt collectors is hard to establish. But the report reveals some 20 million cases have been passed on to debt collectors over the past year. It confirms that lenders are moving far more quickly to punish borrowers who get into arrears. Some people's cases are being passed to bailiffs when they are only two months behind on payments.
IN THIS WEEK snapshots from history
The US invaded the small Caribbean island of Grenada. The US establishment was alarmed at its close ties with the Cubans. On 25 October the US decided to send troops to impose a 'regime change'. They faced resistance. and had to increase troops from 1,200 to 7,000. The military ensured a pro-US government. US troops killed 45 Grenadian soldiers and 24 civilians, and wounded 358 people.
'Are these everyday household appliances?'
THE QUEEN inspecting dishcloths and sponges on a market stall in Enfield, north London
'I always feel sympathy with any woman who is trying to juggle a lot of tasks.'
Cherie Blair on Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith's wife, Betsy
'The civil war in the administration has become crippling.'
William Kristol leading US neo-conservative
'The CIA is in open revolt against the White House. The State Department and the Defence Department aren't working together at all. We are way beyond 'fruitful tension'.'
'I have loved the army. I have served the army faithfully and I have done everything the army has asked me to do. Now my whole idea about the US army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen.'
Sergeant Willie Buckels in Iraq
'When people act in an anti-social fashion-whether by dropping litter, being rowdy or abandoning old cars-they are acting in a way that markets encourage.'
Michael Prowse Financial Times columnist