Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Parliamentary Questions on Work Programme, Benefits System and Workfare.

with 31 comments

From Hansard yesterday, 10th of September.

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South, Conservative)

What impact does the Minister believe the payments-by-result Work programme has had in reducing unemployment in recent months?


Photo of Mark Hoban


Mark Hoban (Financial Secretary, HM Treasury; Fareham, Conservative)

We are seeing that the flow from benefits is continuing at the same level as expected, but payment by results focuses providers’ minds on getting people into sustainable employment, and we will see the first results in November



The “same level as expected” ? What on earth does this mean?

Photo of Alex Cunningham


Alex Cunningham (Stockton North, Labour)

As other hon. Members have mentioned, the introduction of universal credit will mean that housing benefit will be paid not directly to landlords but to tenants, and that it will be paid monthly rather than fortnightly, causing tenants to go into substantial arrears. Does the Secretary of State agree that, when assessing whether a claimant is vulnerable enough to be exempted from monthly payments and receiving their housing element directly, it should be standard practice to consider the feedback of third parties such as social services and voluntary sector services as well as claimants?


Photo of Iain Duncan Smith


Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State, Work and Pensions; Chingford and Woodford Green, Conservative)

I do, yes. We want to pay people directly, and we already pay local housing allowance to such tenants directly, which the hon. Gentleman and all hon. Members should remember. The vast majority cope with that payment—they are very similar. The point is this: we do not intend to cause problems, but the more we continue to treat people in receipt of benefits like children, the less likely they will be able to cope when they go to work. Those who can absolutely must get on to that payment schedule, but we will obviously talk to all the bodies to which he referred to ensure that we identify those who cannot. If people cannot get on to that schedule, we want to surround them with help and support to find out why they cannot manage their payments, and to rectify that rather than just throw money at them.


Anyone can see that giving people in poverty large sums of money, for rent, directly, is going to cause problems.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central, Labour)

I am contacted every day by vulnerable constituents bruised, battered and sometimes made ill by the Secretary of State’s Department trying to force them off benefits that they desperately need. He knows that huge sums of benefits go unclaimed. What is he doing to ensure that those on benefits understand their full entitlement, particularly in respect of Warm Front payments, on which I understand there will be an underspend this year?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith 

Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State, Work and Pensions; Chingford and Woodford Green, Conservative)

I agree. The hon. Lady raises an important point about an area of work—I was just talking to my ministerial colleague about it—that universal credit should help to rectify and improve dramatically, because putting everything into one location will allow us to target it correctly on the intended recipients. One of the biggest problems is that the complexity of the system does not allow that to happen, meaning that lots of people fall between the cracks.

Comment Ian Duncan SMith never answered the question about people being “forced off benefits”.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central, Conservative)

The Government are piloting a scheme in my constituency in which the young unemployed who have never worked will be required to do voluntary work in return for their benefits. Does my hon. Friend agree that that will be good for the long-term job prospects of the young people concerned, and good for confidence in the benefits system, in showing that people will not get something for nothing?


Photo of Mark Hoban
Mark Hoban (Financial Secretary, HM Treasury; Fareham, Conservative)My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are implementing that scheme in conjunction with the Greater London authority, and it will provide an important way of getting more young people into work. That will be to their benefit and to the benefit of society and taxpayers generally.

Comment This is pure workfare. Forced to do ‘voluntary work’? What kind of dictionary definition of voluntary does the government use? Newspeak?



Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

31 Responses

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  1. The government’s flagship welfare reform programme is heading for “disaster”, its “poverty czar” Frank Field has warned.

    Writing in The Guardian, the Labour MP says Universal Credit will not simplify benefits as planned and will instead “rot the soul” of the low paid.

    Mr Field – a previous supporter of some coalition welfare reforms – also predicts new IT systems will not work.

    The scheme’s architect Iain Duncan Smith will be quizzed later by MPs.

    The work and pensions secretary has worked with Mr Field in the past on coalition welfare policy – but the Labour MP’s stinging criticism of Universal Credit adds fuel to growing criticism of the scheme.

    Mr Duncan Smith robustly defended it in the Commons on Monday, telling MPs: “Universal Credit is on time, on budget and I particularly want to stay here to see that through.”


    September 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

  2. “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst; the cursed machine would have ground to a halt.”

    – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    September 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm

  3. I thought a vital part of the job of politicians was the ability to listen to information?
    Or to keep up? Local Housing Allowance, at least in my area, was abolished in 2011 or earlier. So it’s not even an option. The council illegally applies the ‘under 35’ rule to people aged 35-65, as if they are a ‘single unemployed male aged 16’. So you only get a fraction of your rent paid even if you get all the maximum Housing Benefit, which most people don’t get. They make deductions and say silly things like ‘because your accommodation is too expensive’. Even when it is the cheapest in the city. HB bears no relation to the cost of living or the rent levels in your area. There’s nothing on protecting people being evicted by landlords who want to avoid lowering rents, or by landlords who charge rents that deliberately rise until tenants can no longer pay. If you get a job even for a day, your HB stops. Also for a sanction on JSA.

    If you pay HB monthly, people will not be able to pay their rent. It is paid fortnightly in arrears, so is already delayed. This is hard to explain to landlords when they want to know where their rent is. If you must pay rent at the start of each calendar month, it is already difficult. Benefits are not paid per calendar month. Bills often are demanded at the same time as rent.

    Workfare: What about when it makes you ill? Makes you worse? Aggravates a physical or mental health problem? What if you have an accident at work? From poor/inadequate/no training, lack of supervision, no protective equipment, fatigue, malnutrition etc. Or where the accident is caused by the person’s disability or health condition? Eg if a deaf person gets run over by a van because they can’t hear it. Or if somebody passes out while climbing a ladder. According to health and safety posters if you are injured doing something you know is a risk because of your health, you are liable, but it refers to this person as an employee.
    So people on forced unpaid work are not employees and are not liable. If you can’t hear or don’t understand instructions, or are unable to (correctly) follow an order, is the person liable your supervisor, or the people who sent you there? What if you are maimed, paralysed or killed? Or have a head injury and live with brain damage or personality changes; or are left in a vegetative state for the next 70 years? If for example you lose an arm doing workfare, is it a) your own fault or b) do you have the right to sue? (And which party do you sue?) Though only full, permanent employees have employment rights in full.
    There seems to be no category or status for a ‘forced unpaid slave labourer’.

    An employee is meant to have a contract, the right to be in a union, and the right to withdraw their labour. Also the right to dispute their working conditions or question an order.
    If we are ’employees’ on Workfare should we then ask for partner and family benefits? Ask the workfare provider or the work programme that sent us, to pay for private healthcare and dentistry etc. for our relatives. “Well, you insist I’m an employee….”

    The Revolution Will Be Televised, episode 3, BBC3, had a good sketch about the coalition government telling poor people they should move, and go and live in a cardboard box.

    Who was that woman who said if a paralysed or limbless person can lick a stamp they can work, and should not get benefits? That’s a good one, so much is on devices and online these days. They say type with your tongue. How do you do keypads without hands or fingers? Not everyone can paint with their feet or put on trousers using only their legs. If you are limbless etc, you obviously need help to dress, wash, go to the toilet. If someone paralysed etc can even get expensive equipment they can operate with their mouth, there is an assumption coordination/flexibility/strength/dexterity is good enough to do it. Or that it is ‘okay’ to force someone who needs someone to take them to the toilet, or who is incontinent, to be in a workplace where everyone can see that need? Likewise to force somebody who is scared of crowds or social situations, to ‘join a team’ of strangers. Also if you have autism or OCD…. These idiots (government, JCP, Atos, Work Programme etc.) are the type who would agree that it is right to make someone who just had an operation and needs rest, recovery, healing, medication, and sterile conditions,
    do a Workfare outdoors in all weathers and while exposed to dirt/disease.
    If someone with mental health issues has an episode, or someone with substance abuse history relapses, are the government to blame?

    (A local work programme provider incidentally does a course that works on the erroneous belief that the unemployed are substance abusers and alcoholics. It asks participants to talk about their alcoholism and drug addiction in compulsory group therapy with all the other people sentenced to it. Because allocation to different schemes is fairly random, you can be sent here even if you’re teetotal/Muslim and if you don’t take drugs. But you are treated as if you do, and are told that you are an alcoholic and drug addict. The course booklet also refers to single mothers as if they are alcoholic drug addicts. Also it is implied that they are sinners, and bad for being single mothers. Single mothers might be doing the RIGHT thing not marrying or living with the partner/the father, he might be a really bad person. It encourages prayer/church as ways to live other than drink and drugs. This is work programme from a private company, paid by the DWP/JCP, with taxpayers’ money. The separation of church and state? Secular country? Democracy? Position on feminism??? Media portrayals are unhelpful: like if you are unemployed, the drink and drugs, antisocial behaviour and crime, violence and anti-intellectualism, is the only way to be. If you are unemployed and poor, but in one or more ways do not fit these stereotypes, the government can’t handle it and eventually just labels you a deviant and nonconformist, as if that is a bad thing.)

    Here is a job I did for a day, which David Cameron should do along with the rest of them.

    I was sent with no training or experience to catch rats. I went down an alley and it was disgusting, mainly with garbage and condoms and needles and excrement. Towards the end of the afternoon a massive rat ran along the wall top, then jumped onto my head!
    I quit.

    (This was before ‘health and safety’)

    something survived...

    September 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    • I wish the politicians in charge of ‘welfare reform’ would read your contribution Something Survived. Unfortunately I doubt many will (though we have over 150 people subscribed to this Blog).

      Andrew Coates

      September 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

  4. I am afraid the posh boys and ian duncan smith are out of touch with reality and how the whole benefits system is geared to financially cripple someone if they sign off and start a job.My local job centre also have a weird mentality in that they are pounding peoples heads with the idealism of lets all go self employed and start part time work.Its bloody ridiculous,try doing this if you are on jsa and renting a 1 bed hell hole.You will become homeless by the dwp dead head ideas.


    September 12, 2012 at 5:39 am

    • Yes George – you’re right. Obviously the push to self-employment is aimed at reducing the numbers of unemployed. But you have to be self employed as something! i.e. there has to be a trade or service you can provide in a self employed capacity otherwise it’s just being unemployed without the benefit of JSA! Alos many people find that they become “busy fools” – I mean it is too easy to find yourself working really hard at looking for customers work – but actually getting next to no income because the work you are doing isn’t remunerated. This is borne out by the strange fact that whilst the number of unemployed is officailly falling so is productivity!
      None of this matters to the powers that be – they just want to manipulate the figures.


      September 12, 2012 at 11:21 am

  5. just had a sanction letter saying i did not attend a 121 at provider 15 weeks ago and to put the reason i did not attend on the back of the letter and send it back asap in a free paid envelope.

    now should i send it back saying i was sick ect or should i put on it i have not been to the provider since last year or just keep quiet and take the sanction.

    not even had a letter for the date they are saying to go to provider that the sanction is for that i can find.

    looks like they just found the sanction button n let rip lol

    super ted

    September 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    • Well Super Ted. Who is the letter from – the provider or the JCP?
      If the provider then they have raised the sanction doubt already there is no point in telling them why you didn’t attend – this just forewarns them of your defence.
      If the JCP/Decision Maker than you should put forward your reason for non attendance e.g. “I was ill and unable to attend and I phoned the provider on the day of the appointment to inform them of this”.
      Seems to me you have nothing to lose by fighting the doubt – if you do nothing you’ll just get a sanction and they win.


      September 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

  6. the letter is from the dwp asking for a good reason why i did not attend this activity and to send a reply back by next week or i get a sanction it looks like.

    also says my benefit will not be affected until a decision has been made.

    ill just put i was ill and informed provider buy phone i was not going that day then and send it back.

    super ted

    September 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    • Hi ST
      Excellent idea! It was an upset stomach that prevented you leaving the house and didn’t necessitate a visit to the Doctors, and when you phoned in no one mentioned getting a Dr’s note (I expect).


      September 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm

  7. well i just found the provider letter they sent me and the date on it for the interview is different from the one on the letter from the dwp its out buy 2 weeks 3 days hahahaha

    im getting sanctioned for an interview that never existed on the date the dwp letter states i missed lmfao.

    super ted

    September 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm

  8. im just going to put i was ill that day and could not make it and arranged another date to go buy phone as the letter from the provider i have is dated 3 days after the sanction doubt letter/missed appointment. from the dwp so ill photo copy that and send it too.

    super ted

    September 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    • In my experience illness is no excuse for missing an appointment. I missed an appointment because I was unwell earlier this year. I phoned the provider (i2i Pertemps) to tell them I couldn’t attend, and they said OK we’ll make another appointment. All seemed well until I got one of those lovely brown envelopes through the door a fortnight later telling me there was a doubt… So I sent my reply, saying I was unwell and that I had informed the provider in time, and I was still sanctioned. When I spoke about this at my signing-in interview they told me not only do you have to inform the provider of any illness you also have to fill in a form at the JCP too! Is this really true? This is the first I’d ever heard of this, does anyone know if this is true?


      September 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

      • What they are effectively saying is that your illness, which you probably thought of as an inconvenience and no big deal is tantamount to you signing off sick. You should appeal and point out that as far as you were concerned you merely wanted to postpone the appointment as you were not 100% and that treating this as making yourself unavailable for work is a gross exaggeration of the case.


        September 13, 2012 at 11:24 am

      • I agree grumpy.

        It could easily be the case that you could be ill enough not to go to an interview but not ill enough to have to go to the Doctor.

        If you arrange another interview I can’t see how they could object.

        A few days ago we posted here about the massive rise in sanctions (and appeals against this).

        Now we know where this comes from: mean-minded people trying (and no doubt encouraged) to do this kind of thing.

        Andrew Coates

        September 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

  9. Andrew Coates :
    I agree grumpy.
    It could easily be the case that you could be ill enough not to go to an interview but not ill enough to have to go to the Doctor.
    If you arrange another interview I can’t see how they could object.
    A few days ago we posted here about the massive rise in sanctions (and appeals against this).
    Now we know where this comes from: mean-minded people trying (and no doubt encouraged) to do this kind of thing.

    It seems that there is a massive increase in the number of doubts being raised. No doubt this reduces the welfare bill since not everybody will contest, dispute or appeal a doubt. I do not see how it helps the pimps though since they are not paid for raising a doubt and all that this plethora of doubts can do is antagonise their clients and make their own lives more difficult. A very short sighted tactic.


    September 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    • is it normal for them to give out a sanction for a missed interview that was 3 months ago.

      super ted

      September 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      • I had a “doubt” raised seven weeks after missing an appointment (through illness). And like “Scab” I phoned on the day to explain and all seemed well…

        There has definitely a culture shift at the providers now; there are far more doubts being raised about claims for increasingly spurious reasons. No doubt there are targets set in place for people working at providers as well as jobcentres. This “payment by results” culture will have some dire consequences for vulnerable people, I’m sure of that.


        September 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    • I worry how people are supposed to manage without two weeks money (in the first instance). Even if you appeal, you are still going to be skint while you wait. Its tough enough as it is, for a person trying to live on JSA. The Work Programme seems to me to be a job creation scheme for the clerical class (middle?). They (the govt.) should be creating jobs for the under 25s.


      September 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm

  10. how much is hardship allowance these days got it a few years ago when they stopped my jsa but had to weight 2 weeks b4 i could get it tho. i think.

    i take it they cant sanction hardship allowance as i use most of my jsa to pay rent and ct.

    super ted

    September 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm

  11. Ted, Quick answer. Me slightly p£$$%d. Depending how and where you live you should not have to pay rent but I appreciate that you may have to. If you are on JSA you should not be paying ct. However, regarding ct they have changed the rules and it is up to your local council how much ct you may have to pay in future. At the moment councils are asking who should bear the 10% cut from central govt. Make your voice heared. As for hardship allowance ; the information is out there. Try looking on official DWP sites or “what do they know.com”.


    September 13, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    • i won my sanction doubt in the end till the next time that is.

      super ted

      September 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      • Good on you. Well done.


        September 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      • Good news! Trebles, Grouse, Truffles, and Plasma TVs all round….

        Andrew Coates

        September 23, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  12. Your days are numbered Iain Duncan Smith, 2.5 years to go until the coalition govt is kick out, you and your cronies will never be put in a position of power again, personally I would bring you up on human rights charges at the european court for what you have done to the unemployed.

    Cons and Lib Dems will never be trusted again, the unemployed make up over 2.5 million voters now, just remember that you dick.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    September 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

    • I can only hope you’re right about that – 2 and a half years to go before people get the chance to kick this load of toffs to the curb. My only concern is how many more people will die as a result of this government’s policies? How many suicides, how many people found “fit for work” dying while on the WRAG, how many more lives lost for the sake of saving “taxpayers’ money”…


      September 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

    • Stan :
      Ted, Quick answer. Me slightly p£$$%d. Depending how and where you live you should not have to pay rent but I appreciate that you may have to. If you are on JSA you should not be paying ct. However, regarding ct they have changed the rules and it is up to your local council how much ct you may have to pay in future. At the moment councils are asking who should bear the 10% cut from central govt. Make your voice heared. As for hardship allowance ; the information is out there. Try looking on official DWP sites or “what do they know.com”.

      No offence but the UK population is some 67.5 million so no matter the turn out 2.5 wont sway nothing and even if it did, do you really expect the next government to act any different (FND).

      In order to be deemed as employed stat wise you dont actually have to be in a payed job. All you need to be is not actively seeking work, (REMEMBER THIS).
      All government are trying to do is get the employed stat up and you guessed it the latter down,you know this as its the stat all go to.
      Now not so recently an increase in sanctions has occurred centering around mostly those on the work programme under the veil of what you didnt do to find work. So basically this will have the effect of lowering both cost and responsibility towards the private provider but most of all will lower the unemployed total and raise the employed total just in time for the release of the work programme figures. As i said being without a job does not signify you are unemployed.

      This said means when looking at the work programme stats do get the sanction total first as this will be needed to cast an accurate picture.

      Its all about the numbers, not you,not me, not whats really going on.


      September 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

      • I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say Gaia.

        Andrew Coates

        September 19, 2012 at 11:54 am

      • Hello Gaia, With all due respect, I think that your comments are aimed at the wrong person.


        September 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm

  13. He’s a competent approach, get rid of all the private providers and switch the responsibility for finding the unemployed jobs, back to the Jobcentre Plus, the government would save £5 billion of taxpayers money overnight or thereabouts.

    But that’s too sensible isn’t it?

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    September 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

    • You’re right Obi! It’s too sensible, and probably too late. The pimps would sue for breach of contract – DWP would have to settle and Enemma Harridan et al would walk away with more unearned and undeserved millions.


      September 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

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