Sanctioning the Jobless.
The truth behind ‘sanctioning’ the jobless.
This important article is from today’s Morning Star.
“As a former manager in Duncan Smith’s Jobcentre Plus I have first-hand experience of seeing how easily damn lies become statistics.
The Work and Pensions Secretary is no stranger to being economical with truth. In recent weeks he has made some pretty unbelievable statements.
Like anyone who has worked for Jobcentre Plus over the last few years, I was amused, if not surprised, by the recent denials from Duncan Smith that staff had been given targets for sanctioning claimants.
“Sanctioning” is one of those popular weasel words. For the claimant it means losing your benefit.
Over the last few years I attended many meetings where instructions from above were passed on and we managers had to order staff to sanction or disallow more claimants because the office stats didn’t look good.
Managers were usually careful not to use the word “target,” especially in an email. The thesaurus must have been consulted on many occasions before they finally settled on another weasel word – “expectation.”
They do say: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck the chances are it is a duck.” It doesn’t matter what terminology was used, everyone knew what these were. They were targets.
Staff were told that there was an expectation that they would refer more cases for dismissal or disallowance. Put simply it meant more folk would lose their benefits.
No targets? Oh no. But if staff failed to achieve a required percentage, they could find themselves in line for discipline.
I worked in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the best part of 20 years and the vast majority of my colleagues were motivated by a desire to help people in the most difficult of situations.
People working in your local jobcentre will live in the same community as the claimants they try to help.
Many, like myself, would have been claiming benefit immediately prior to working for DWP and had first-hand experience of life the other side of the counter.
This government’s attempt to bully the most vulnerable in society is not confined only to those who have no job.
Jobcentre staff complete an annual anonymous survey. Over the last few years 13 per cent of them have stated that they have been subjected to bullying in the workplace.
this constant pressure on staff and claimants may be counterproductive for the government.
Nearly three-quarters of DWP staff are members of the Public and Commercial Services union and PCS members have taken more action in the last few years than almost any other group of workers.
Today they are also working alongside claimant organisations to provide a united fightback.
We all know bullies only get away with their bullying by isolating their victims.
Our present Con-Dem government knows all about bullying. They have proved themselves a gang of bullies, and none more so than Duncan Smith.
That fightback need to start on both sides of the jobcentre counter. Public servants and those on benefits have exactly the same enemy.
Only by us all working and fighting together can Cameron, Clegg and the despicable Duncan Smith be dumped on the dole queue of history where only they belong.
- John Andrews is a pseudonym to protect the author’s identity.
Last year this appeared in May.
Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee, is to demand why a senior official at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) denied that staff at jobcentres were being given targets to enforce sanctions on benefit claimants’ money.
This comes as the Guardian publishes another set of evidence of a targets culture; internal documents show evidence of this at more than a dozen jobcentres around the country. Civil servants had said previous cases were isolated incidents.
But the mounting documentary evidence and reports from staff suggests that across the country, on the ground these “scorecards” result in targets and pressure on staff.
By October the 22nd sanctions were toughened up,
- Higher level sanctions (for example for leaving a job voluntarily) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of 13 weeks for a first failure, 26 weeks for a second failure and 156 weeks for a third and subsequent failure (within a 52 week period of their last failure).
- Intermediate level sanctions of four weeks for a first failure, rising to 13 weeks for a second or subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure) may be applied following a period of disallowance for not actively seeking employment or not being available for work.
- Lower level sanctions (for example for failing to attend an adviser interview) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of four weeks for the first failure, followed by 13 weeks for subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure
No surprise that in March this year we learn this,
The government has launched an inquiry after it was forced to admit that jobcentres have been setting targets and league tables to sanction benefit claimants despite assurances to parliament this week that no such targets were being set.
A leaked email shows staff being warned by managers that they will be disciplined unless they increase the number of claimants referred to a tougher benefit regime.
Ruth King, a jobcentre adviser manager, discloses in the email that she has received “the stricter benefit regime” figures for her area, adding: “As you can see Walthamstow are 95th in the league table out of only 109” – the number of jobcentres in London and the home counties. The employment minister, Mark Hoban, had assured MPs on Tuesday: “There are no league tables in place. We do not set targets for sanctions. I have made that point in previous discussions.”
The league table could only have been drawn up through information provided by senior managers in the Department for Work and Pensions.
Hoban had told MPs that decisions on sanctioning claimants “need to be based on whether people have breached the agreements they have set out with the jobcentre, and there are no targets in place”.
Faced with the email, the DWP said: “We are urgently investigating what happened in this case. If a manager has set a local target for applying sanctions this is against DWP policy and we will be taking steps to ensure these targets are removed immediately.”
Labour claim they did not vote against the Jobseeker’s Bill because an independent review of sanctions will take place,
Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to reports in the Guardian of a major scandal in the DWP’s sanction’s regime, said:
“This is why we took difficult decisions on the Jobseekers’ Bill to secure an independent review of sanctions. We knew there were sanctions targets and now we’ve secured an independent report to Parliament to put right a regime in Job Centres that’s running out of control.
It cannot have escaped anybody’s notice that the idea of forcing people to use the Universal Job Match site provides an opportunity not just to snoop on the unemployed, and harass them, but to give another pretext for sanctions.
I have asked, when signing on, what the local targets for making people penniless were.
Denial, denial and flat denial, that these exist.