Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Sanctions Report: Questions Unanswered.

with 32 comments

An internal inquiry at the Department for Work and Pensions into the covert regime of welfare targets at jobcentres says it has found no evidence of the practice – yet it accepts that action is taken against those jobcentres that do not sanction benefits as much as others.

Reports the Guardian today.

This follows this (from Watching A4E),

In the last few weeks, DWP have been preparing the final statistics to the end of January and extending some of the tables to show new measures. These activities have exposed some significant doubts around the quality of the statistics relating to the new regime.

Consequently, to avoid a potentially misleading statistical release, JSA sanction statistics will not be released on 15 May.

DWP will perform further quality assurance activities on this new series and will publish as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it is not possible to commit to a definite date at the moment, but a proposed publication date will be announced in advance via

The Guardian continues,

The report also says some jobcentre staff are sometimes given personal targets, but only after being disciplined.

The internal report otherwise gives the DWP a clean bill of health, saying: “We found no evidence of a secret national regime of targets, or widespread secret imposition of local regimes to that effect. There is no national use of league tables. We found no evidence people are being wrongly sanctioned as a consequence.”

The article notes,

In recent months the Guardian has repeatedly found signs of a targets culture in the administration of benefits, and has reported on at least 16 jobcentres around the country involved in a drive to kick people off benefits, amid pressure to meet welfare targets set by their managers.

The DWP initially dismissed any suggestion of this, but last month said the practice had been going on in some offices due to a misunderstanding between the department and some jobcentre managers, and that this was no longer the case.

Now we come to the rub

The internal DWP report – written by the senior DWP manager responsible for the regime, Neil Couling – says benefit advisers can be given disciplinary warnings that contain a reference to what level of benefit might on average be expected.

This ‘internal report’ – that is not for the public or those signing-on – is we underline, dealing with decisions that affect people’s lives in the most serious way possible.

These warnings – known as personal improvement plans (PIPs) inside the DWP – “should be very clear about the consequences of an individual not fulfilling the personal responsibilities as a civil servant to administer the system in full”.

Are they? It’s the first we’ve heard of how they decide on how to “personally improve” our behaviour.

Couling argues that: “There is an important difference though in setting an individual target, which is not acceptable, and giving an individual an idea about what might be expected in their local labour market and for their size of caseload as an aid to judging whether the law is being properly applied. PIPs that make these references will be appropriate and do not constitute a local target or benchmark. That is a subtle difference that I suspect some advisers can struggle with.”

In an effort to explain the existence of tables – which were passed to the Guardian – showing how many claimants are sanctioned per benefit office, the internal report claims that these lists do not represent “league tables”.

They are no doubt merely lists, like lists for things you get at Liddle. Without consquence.

Or not,

Couling explains: “Management information is collected on referral rates and decision outcomes. This is used to assure managers that conditionality referrals are being done appropriately. Where an outlier is identified, whether that is high or low, managers collect evidence to explain these figures and where justified, no further action is taken.

“Should there be any issue of inappropriate use or non-compliance with the conditionality and sanctions legislation; staff should be supported to correctly impose conditionality with the use of personal improvement plan (PIP) and line manager support”.

“Staff should be supported to correctly impose conditionality” – what a phrase!

That is, they are told how to make somebody’s life a misery by taking away their benefits.

In the specific case of Walthamstow job centre, where managers demanded that staff increase sanctions or face disciplinary action, the report finds: “The language, tone and contents of the email were simply wrong and an inappropriate communication channel was used. The particular reference to a local DMA [decision-making and appeals] target of 5% was neither necessary nor accurate and appropriate.”

So if there was a 5% target.

No amount of mealy-mouthed rubbish about “neither necessary nor accurate and appropriate” can hide that.

Couling wrote: “Our wider review of the evidence suggests a limited number of other locations where errors of this type were also made.”

In other words the practice was more widespread.

By how much they refuse to reveal.

The report also refers to the 16 cases raised by the Guardian, and shows no evidence that any independent inquiries were made. In most of the 16 cases, Couling accepts errors of one sort or another had occurred.

Addressing the issue of whether league tables are routinely exchanged inside the DWP and Jobcentre Plus, he said: “It would be technically possible to configure management information into a league table (a simple manipulation of Excel) but as the leak showed, it is not in a league table.”

Not a league Table?

It was clearly a comparative table, which could be seen in this way, as the following jargon-riddled statement indicates,

But the report admits: “We have found a limited number of instances where a local manager has misinterpreted the instructions or has fallen back on target methodology in an effort to exercise their responsibilities to ensure the law is being properly applied. I believe that is happening because the cultural change underpinning the move away is incomplete.”

Couling claims the recent reports are the residue of a previous, now-abandoned, targets regime and staff imposing targets. “We need to be vigilant and consistent to ensure junior managers continue to move away from legacy habits as we focus on building the freedom and flexibility approach. We are using these incidents and the recent press coverage to redouble our efforts.”

Please note, the “freedom and flexibility approach” means giving great power to advisers to reduce people to destitution by “sanctioning” them

Couling also promised to publish at regular intervals figures on sanction referral by jobcentres.

See above on the DWP not publishing statistics.

The conclusion is this,

The issue will also now be investigated by the work and pensions select committee. The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has also set up an independent year-long inquiry about the treatment of jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

The inquiry “will evaluate, where a claimant has failed to participate, how the sanctioning process then worked. This will include reviewing the clarity of information given to claimants to help them navigate this process.

“This will include what information was provided to explain that they can avoid a sanction by showing good cause and that they can apply for a review or appeal if a sanction is imposed.”

There is no space for people to ask:

  • Is it right that the DWP and Job Advisers have such arbitrary power over people’s benefits?
  • Whether it is right to give Work Programme Contractors auxiliary powers of this nature?
  • How on earth people are expected to live on the money they get when they are “sanctioned”?

32 Responses

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  1. laughable. everyone knows they existed in all jobcentres. a cover-up from a potential legal minefield

    Universal Jobmatch

    May 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm

  2. THE TRUTH BEHIND “SANCTIONING” THE JOBLESS, by a former Jobcentre manager.

    “[Jobcentre] 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.”

    Full report here:


    This report was posted before, but it is still relevant now.


    May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

  3. youe site is shite it will not let me post a reply???????


    May 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

  4. tried to post pictures from walthamstow manager and malvern jobcentre here 4 times and your crap site wont let me post the pictures ,sort your site out


    May 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm

  5. peter

    May 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm

  6. poxiest website i have ever tried to post pictures on


    May 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

  7. Good blog entry, but you didn’t like to the new Guardian report, you linked to the March news story twice.

    The Laughing Man

    May 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm

  8. Laughing, thanks, corrected.

    Peter, it does allow videos but not pictures.

    I do not know any Blog site that allows cut-and-paste pictures.

    Andrew Coates

    May 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

  9. What a load of weasel-worded equivocation.

    “No targets” my arse. This crap about a “reference to what level of benefit might on average be expected” is clearly functionally identical to setting a target.



    May 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

    • Not “targets”, love… spotlights, it’s where we aim for… like targets 🙂

      Pauline (JCP)

      May 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm

  10. GEAB N°75


    “Sharp increase in US jobless benefit claims”


    “The AP spying scandal and the crisis of American democracy”


    What a mess!!!.


    May 17, 2013 at 10:46 am

  11. Bank Holiday Monday:- No Library Open Jobcentres Closed Can’t Get To An Internet Cafe Not Got An I Phone. Won’t Be Able To Get Onto UJM {7 Day Mandate}
    Sanctions Maybe ?????

    I won't be sanctioned ?

    May 17, 2013 at 11:44 am

    • Should Have Said I Won’t Be Sanctioned FACT

      I won't be sanctioned FACT

      May 17, 2013 at 11:58 am


    “Now that ideology is disavowed as passé and “divisive”, governments are adopting subliminal forms of policy and persuasion.”

    “Behaviour change – the “new science of irrationality”, “neuro-economics” or “nudge” – claims that since people often fail to act rationally and in their best interests, their decisions and behaviour should be guided subconsciously by (rational) experts. David Cameron’s “nudge unit” is run by David Halpern, a former social psychology lecturer, whose cabinet office paper Mindspace: influencing behaviour through public policy, advocates an approach that relies on citizens “not fully” realising “that their behaviour is being changed””.

    Full article here:



    May 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

  13. WPP want all jobseekers to lose ‘between 3 and 4 stone each’, more if longterm unemployed. This could be problematic I pointed out as I only weigh ‘under 7 stone’. ?They want me to perhaps lose all 7 stone in a crematorium? ‘Arbeit macht frei’.

    JCP sanctions people for no reason all the time. Most staff happily compete to sanction as many as possible. The rest get bullied to do it and get told off for not sanctioning enough people. Now they are openly telling people they have been randomly selected to receive a sanction ‘for our figures’. They do ‘the voice’ (the patronising one) and say ‘it is not a problem, just reapply for your benefits straight away and we’ll restart them at the end of the sanction’. If you have a clean record it is a 4 week sanction, but if you have any previous sanctions (justified or not) the sanction will be 3 months or up to 1 or 3 years. As it is randomised you could be chosen two or three times for a ‘no-fault sanction’.

    They don’t care it still counts against you in the pattern of sanctions, against reputation and character, financially, legally, etc. Like you still have bills to pay? ~Like the bank or gas meter will agree to give you a month or two or more on credit? They don’t care it will starve/evict you, or turn you into a prostitute. (Since cops arrest prostitutes, illegally since it is not technically illegal to be a prostitute, that is a double bonus for the state – which can lock up more people. Of course if a prostitute rents a home, the landlord can be prosecuted for ‘living off/receiving immoral earnings’ and for not evicting her/him/them. And a prostitute can have their children taken away; but this is not done to the kids of arms dealers, tobacco company CEO’s, car manufacturers, mercenaries… or Politicians. On the street a prostitute can be arrested for street hooking, sex in alleys/cars, begging, peeing in alleys… and of course being homeless – now a crime on a par with terrorism! Not to forget that if you are dating, living in a relationship with, or are friends with a prostitute, you can be evicted too.). JCP staff act like this random picking for a sanction is perfectly reasonable, and that you should accept it or be grateful.

    (Same patronising singsong voice; “…So we’re going to cut your head off and put your kids in a meat grinder, and then ban all people with a similar surname from ever getting benefits.
    In anticipation of your thanks for this new efficiency scheme, we have produced a preprinted card with your signature on it, from you to us, thanking us for this wonderful system and willing us your possessions and corpse.”)

    something survived...

    May 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    • Now they are openly telling people they have been randomly selected to receive a sanction ‘for our figures’.

      Please post a link to where you have got this information.

      Obi Wan Kenobi

      May 18, 2013 at 9:06 am

  14. The last adviser at our local JCP who tried to impose a sanction on me got sacked, because I got the manager down, right there and then.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    May 18, 2013 at 9:10 am

  15. Government must reveal workfare exploiters!


    Thanks to Boycott Workfare for this.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    May 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

    • They really are great, Boycott Workfare!

      All power to their sharp elbows!

      Andrew Coates

      May 18, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    • Shows the way they are going, looks like they are going to start and use the aids disabled people use as a weapon to say they can get around, therefore….they can work!!!.

      Ever try and get a mobility scooter on/off a bus ?, many metro systems have banned them from platforms!!!. Of course that will not be taken into consideration by the DWP, of course people can (if they could afford it) buy a road legal mobility scooter that can reach speeds of upto 8 miles an hour, people then can go onto the roads in the rush hour looking for work, inline with what the government want them to do, what mayhem on the roads in the rush hour would that cause.


      May 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm

  16. “If The Rest Are Only Half As Bad As Ireland …”


    As it says in the article…”It’s just a matter of time until the walls come down”


    May 18, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    A doctor who worked for the private company which assesses people for disability benefits says its methods are “unfair”. Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from Atos earlier this month, after working as an assessor for two-and-a-half years. He told the BBC the system was “skewed against the claimant”. In an interview with the BBC, Dr Wood says he believes Atos assessors are not free to make truly independent recommendations. He said he felt compelled to speak out because it was “embarrassing to be associated with this shambles”. “It’s very unfair on the people making claims, they deserve a fair assessment and as a taxpayer I’m pretty cheesed off about the £100m plus that’s being sprayed away on this dog’s breakfast,” he said. But Dr Wood has criticized some of the tests which he says contain “dubious concepts and shaky reasoning”. He claims assessors are told that if a claimant can walk from the kitchen to the sitting room, it proves they can walk 200m (650ft); and if a person can dress themselves once during the day that is proof they have enough concentration and motivation to hold down a job. He insists these rules are not published in handbooks and guides; instead they are simply spoken about in training sessions. Dr Wood, who was given special responsibility to champion mental health at Atos, said: “I was instructed to change my reports, to reduce the number of points that might be awarded to the claimants. I felt that was wrong professionally and ethically. “My view is the government has tried to catch more people in the net than the current test allows by pulling strings behind the scenes to get the result they most desire,” he added. Dr Wood says the people being most adversely affected by the system have significant, mid-ranging disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, and head and spinal injuries. He also claims some of the most severely disabled people are being asked to attend face-to-face assessments, instead of the normal practice of examining their application on paper. He says he saw a lot of people who had suffered severe strokes and brain damage. “There was a man with a motor neurone condition who I actually put in the terminal illness group,” he said. “He should not have come for a face-to-face assessment. It was cruel and he was hopping mad.” Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has asked a series of Commons questions on the assessments, said Dr Wood’s allegations were “serious and shocking” and he had written to the prime minister asking for an investigation. “The head-in-the-sand approach Tory ministers are adopting isn’t good enough,” he said. “They need to get a grip on this chaotic process which is not only causing misery for some of the most vulnerable members of our society, but also costing taxpayers a fortune at a time when we can least afford it.”


    May 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm

  18. peter

    May 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    • Good stuff but you don’t need to post it 7 times Peter!

      Andrew Coates

      May 20, 2013 at 11:14 am

  19. I have just been sanctioned. Not for not looking for a job (I do this daily all day and provide evidence to the Job Centre for my activity) But for not using Universal Job Match – I have been locked out and have been sanctioned for asking that they restore access rather than my provide another email address.

    So for a failure of their system (I have been waiting 2.5 months for them to unlock my account which they said would take 3 weeks) I have had my benefits removed.

    I asked why signing up to UJM was so important when I would not be giving them access anyway (this is my right), was already using a number of other relevant useful and better job search sites, and they have not even looked at my CV so cannot possibly know anything about what would or would not be helpful to me. I was told “well it cannot hurt” which completey ignores the security risks which were dismissed.

    UJM is just a sanction machine

    Please sign this petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49607

    fed up and about to be sanctioned

    May 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    • I’ve been telling people that for months!

      Obi Wan Kenobi

      May 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      • This just happen


        July 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      • I just got sanctioned for the same thing, I got a new advisor and they told me the paper written job search forms they handed me are no good and told me in these words “if I don’t give access them access to UJM I will get sanctioned”. She said I got to send this to a decision maker. I went through the same thing with my last advisor, but didn’t get sanctioned that time and the decision maker wouldn’t give me or my advisor a reason why they decided that.


        July 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

  20. When I last signed on, I was told unequivocally that they DO have targets! my advisor told me after mentioned targets being set by SEETEC.


    May 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm

  21. When I last signed on, I was told unequivocally that they DO have targets! My advisor told me after I mentioned targets being set by SEETEC.


    May 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm

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