Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Sanctions: Another Guide.

with 29 comments

A number of people, some of them professionally involved in Welfare advice, have recommended, very highly, the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty’s guide published this August. .

Their site is excellent as well.

Here is the main text on what claimants should do faced with this threat.

AVOID SANCTIONS

  1. When signing on always give the Jobcentre as much info as possible about your jobsearch.
  2. If you have health issues ask to be seen regularly by a Disability Employment Adviser.  Your health should be taken into account when decisions are being made about what your jobsearch.
  3. Ask for everything in writing, where possible.  If the Jobcentre or the Workfare Provider (A4e, Ingeus, etc) say something is mandatory, ask them to write which law/ regulation states this.
  4. If something is agreed by phone, or verbally, write or e mail to ask them to confirm it.
  5. Ensure your Job Seekers Agreement is realistic.  If the Jobcentre proposes changes you do not agree to, then you can ask for the issue to be referred to a decisionmaker, and meanwhile the original agreement stands.  If your current agreement is unreasonable, you can ask for it to be reviewed.
  6. Be accompanied to any tricky appointments by a friend or advisor.  This is your right.

SANCTIONS – WHAT HAPPENS

The process for imposing sanctions is

1) The Jobcentre or a workfare provider (eg A4e ) makes a SANCTION REFERRAL.

2) Then a DWP decision-maker, generally in a different decisionmakers section, in a different location, makes the decision about whether or not a sanction is to be imposed.

Sometimes, especially if the sanction referral is made by the Jobcentre for allegedly not doing enough to actively seek work, your benefit is suspended immediately.

The decisionmaker should write to you to give you the chance to put your case before he/ she makes their decision.  When they do make their decision, they should send you a decision letter.  It seems that often they do not do this.  If they don’t send both these letters, this is something you can use in your appeal and in an official complaint.

SANCTIONED/ BENEFIT SUSPENDED/ SANCTION REFERRAL? 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

It’s vital to contest the sanction – over half of appeals succeed.

WRITE TO ARGUE AGAINST A SANCTION

  • You should submit full information, in writing, as soon as possible to the decisionmaker, to argue against a sanction.   Act right away.  Whether it is a sanction referral, or an actual sanction, whether your benefit is suspended or not, put forward your case in writing as soon as you can.
  • If the sanction referral is for allegedly not doing enough to look for work then write to the Decisionmaker with as much info as possible about your jobsearch, including ALL the steps you have taken.  This can include phone calls and emails to employers, looking in newspapers, at websites, asking friends and family etc, as well as actual job applications.  Where possible provide evidence.
  • Do not rely on the Jobcentre forwarding all the information they hold about your jobseeking to the decisionmaker.  We have supported claimants in cases where the Jobcentre has withheld information about jobseeking activity from the Decisionmaker and from the Tribunal, thus making it appear the Jobseeker had done much less job search activity than they actually had.
  • If your sanction is for missing or being late for an appointment you need to show you had “good cause” or “good reason” for this.  A domestic emergency, illness, a funeral and other reasons could constitute good cause.  More info on this below.

INSIST ON A MEETING WITH A MANAGER

As soon as you know a sanction referral has been made, then insist on a meeting with a Jobcentre manager to explain why the sanction referral should be withdrawn (if the referral is done by a workfare provider like A4e then seek an appointment with a manager at the provider).  We have succeeded in stopping several sanctions this way.

The Jobcentre in particular is likely to resist a meeting but this is your right.  If you and a rep go to the Jobcentre, insist on a date for an appointment with a manager, and won’t leave until you get a time and date for a meeting, then it won’t be easy for them to refuse. If many claimants insist on a meeting with a manager when sanctioned, it will help make the mass imposition of sanctions unworkable.  If refused an appointment, make an official complaint, copying it to your MP and seeking their support.

MAKE AN OFFICIAL COMPLAINT

If the sanction referral is clearly unjustified, make an official complaint to the Jobcentre manager. Copy the complaint to your MP and insist he/ she supports you.  If you do not get the proper response, you can escalate the complaint to the DWP District Office and then to the DWP Chief Executive’s Office in London.

ADVISER PROBLEMS? GET A NEW ONE

If your adviser has treated you badly, then as well as making a complaint, you can request a different adviser.  This is your right, whether at the Jobcentre or at a Workfare provider like A4e or Ingeus  We have supported many claimants to successfully do this.

HARDSHIP PAYMENTS

As soon your benefits have been stopped/ suspended, or as soon as your sanction is confirmed, claim Hardship Payments from the Jobcentre.  Do not delay as it will be difficult to get them backdated.  More info from Refuted here.

KEEP YOUR HOUSING BENEFIT AND COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT

Tell Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (CTB) to make sure that both these benefits continue as normal while you are sanctioned (In Edinburgh, contact City of Edinburgh Council Revenues and Benefits).  While sanctioned you are entitled to the same Housing Benefit and CTB as before, but you MUST tell the Council of your changed circumstances or these benefits will automatically stop.

WRITTEN STATEMENT OF REASONS

If the sanction is confirmed, write to ask for a written statement of reasons for the decision.  This will help in focusing your arguments against the sanction when you request a Mandatory Reconsideration.

MANDATORY RECONSIDERATION

The government has changed the rules about appeals, to make things worse for claimants.  Now you cannot just make an appeal, you have first to apply to the DWP for Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision.  You should send a letter with a detailed written argument why the sanction is not justified.  As before, if the issue is allegedly not doing enough to seek work, write with details of EVERY SINGLE STEP you took in the relevant period to look for work.  Best to get advice, we can help.

There is no set time for the DWP to take for this, but if you have not heard after three weeks then chase them up.  They may phone you up about the Mandatory Reconsideration, but it is important to put your full case in writing.

Here is the link to the official government site which explains the process of Mandatory Reconsideration for benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (the rules are different for some other benefits).

AUTHORITIES STILL NOT LISTENING? CONSIDER A SOLIDARITY DEMO

If the Jobcentre or provider are still not listening to you about the sanction, then you could consider a protest at the Jobcentre or provider’s premises.  Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have a solidarity network of people like yourself we can call on to give backing to people who need support against the authorities.  If you would like to consider this, we can discuss it with you, and it will be up to you to decide the form of the protest, so it is something you are happy with.

We have held solidarity demos in support of individuals, over various issues over the years, and the vast majority have been successful.

CARRY ON CLAIMING

Do not be intimidated into giving up your claim, this is what they want.  Continue signing on, even if your benefit is suspended – if you win you will get the money back, but if you stop signing on, you won’t be able to get backdated money.

APPEAL TO AN INDEPENDENT TRIBUNAL

If the mandatory reconsideration does not restore your benefit, then appeal to an independent social security tribunal.  Best to seek advice and support.

SANCTIONS FOR CLAIMANTS ON SICKNESS BENEFITS

Disgustingly, even claimants too ill or disabled to work can be sanctioned if they are in the Work Related Activity Group of the Employment and Support Alllowance.

If you are in this situation and forced onto the Work Programme, then protect yourself by submitting medical evidence to the Workfare Provider (eg Ingeus) that shows you are too ill to attend office appointments.  We have supported claimants at Ingeus on the Work Programme to gain the right to have contact by phone calls rather than appointments.

If you are sanctioned, or a sanction referral is made, then the advice in this leaflet applies, plus do get medical evidence to back up your case, eg to say you were too ill to make an appointment.

Remember to take someone with you to any appointments.

If they refuse to take your illness into account you can sue the DWP and workfare provider for disability discrimination.

SURVIVAL

As well as claiming Hardship Payments you may be able to get a grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund, run by local councils, in Edinburgh contact 0131 529 5299.  And click here for more info.

Investigate Food banks, you usually need a referral.  Ask us for more info on sources of free food.

TOP TIP

When submitting any info to the DWP it is vital to either post it SIGNED FOR or hand-deliver and get a receipt.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

The unprecedented wave of sanctions is part of the government’s war on the poor.  The rich are trying to get us to pay for the crisis caused by their greed and the chaos of the global profit system.  We need to fight back.  We need to resist all benefit cuts, and link up with all struggles resisting austerity.

It’s no good relying on politicians or political parties, they are part of the problem.  We need to organise at the grass-roots and take direct action.  Ultimately we need to challenge capitalism – this system is based on the legalised robbery of the majority by the ruling class.  Why shouldn’t the world’s resources belong to the world’s people and be used to meet human need?

We are keen to organise more action against sanctions, like our demonstration at Leith Job Centre.  Opposition to sanctions is growing, as we write in summer 2014 demonstrations are being organised against sanctions in Clydebank, Dundee and Glasgow.  Get in touch if you would like to join with us to fight back against sanctions.

More information on the site here.

As said, highly recommended.

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2014 at 10:11 am

Posted in Government, Sanctions, Welfare State

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29 Responses

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  1. Personally I like the ” theirs only so many ways a person can go home” approach but hey that’s just the terrorist lurking in all of us. 😀

    No seriously good advice as always Mr coates and the fellow/s who put it together

    gaia

    August 31, 2014 at 11:27 am

  2. I would like some information about avoiding a sanction via the Claimant Committment. The JSAg does allow you to state what kind of vacancies you apply for. The CC seems to give the Jobcentre a free hand to make you apply for pretty much everything you are physically capable of doing under threat of sanction if you refuse. Has anyone any advice/practical experience to offer on how to deal with this.

    I live in East Anglia and we are still using the JSAg but the CC will come here eventually and I want to be prepared.

    jj joop

    August 31, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    • JJ Ive got cc interview tomorrow not lookin forward to it. Think Tobanem or maybe someone else posted some good info on the previous post. just goin to have a look for it.

      Jester McFail

      August 31, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      • JJ Its OBI WANS info on the sanctions should we film post Gonna write it down and take it to sanctioncentre – interogation tomorrow.

        Jester McFail

        August 31, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      • Jester Mcfail: Good luck tomorrow and do let us now how you got on, particularly with regards to what you agree to apply for. Or should I say, are forced to apply for. I always record my signings / interviews.

        jj joop

        August 31, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      • Cheers I’ll let you know the score.

        Jester McFail

        August 31, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      • Hi JJ just back from jokecentre nothing mentioned about cc although the adviser told me last month that this was what the interview was about. Anyway she started goin on about getting work experience even though i worked for 5 months last summer. So ive either got to find voluntary work or it’s mwa for me.

        Jester McFail

        September 1, 2014 at 9:33 am

    • They’ve issued them for a while now at my old local office, usually when its a fresh claim or something changes on your original JSA.

      I did or at least I think I did upload a link to the very JSA regulation change/addition.

      Basically it allows you to still be under jsa regulation while simultaneously having your claimant commitment conform to the universal credit regulations.

      Like your current agreement your not compelled to sign, it must be realistic (achievable) and optional as acting as an evidence sheet (you can still present evidence as you are currently).

      gaia

      August 31, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      • Cheers Gaia, i wrote that info down just incase i need it in the near future. Also thanks for all the other usefull info:-)

        Jester McFail

        September 1, 2014 at 9:35 am

    • I would say that no sane employer is going want you if you are not suitable for the job.

      So apply.

      Andrew Coates

      September 1, 2014 at 10:36 am

      • I only apply for suitable jobs that ive got certificates, licences and experience in, Otherwise what’s the point in applying.

        Jester McFail

        September 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

  3. good advice and seek submission paperwork.

    They wont let me see a disabilty advisor as i am on indefinite post work programme support as are those with barriers to work. hence heavily targeted for abuse and mounting conditions’.

    They are now demanding access to universal jobmatch or print outs from this site. however like many i am at breaking point as to what can be managed. there’s no guarantee someone can access the few IADs in jobcentres’ to print off also and relying on IT to manage evidence solely isnt wise. they are trying to get people to give access to universal jobmatch.

    It all boils down to trying to sanction,without regard for legality.

    ken

    August 31, 2014 at 2:33 pm

  4. “Do not rely on the Jobcentre forwarding all the information they hold about your jobseeking to the decisionmaker.” – A very important point, the jc “adviser” will put down on the ASE doubt form (which you generally wont see unless you appeal) that the jobseeker has *only* applied for one or two jobs when in actual fact they have produced a “shedload” of evidence. I have seen this time and time again. Jobseekers beware!

    Welfare Rights Adviser

    August 31, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    • Excellent advice again,i suspect they want access to universal jobmatch to gain a sanction opportunity. jobcentre advisors’ are in no way to be trusted.always check details of any letter appointments signed for and match,mine had a date but a blank space where the time was,and she expected me to sign leaving a blank space.

      someone gives them access to Uj and only those “vacancies” that have been applied through the site appear,these are quite rare. anything else produced such as online pdf saved proof will be “overlooked” and not mentioned.

      Its all about the unemployment figures and getting them lower,its a total disgrace.

      ken

      September 1, 2014 at 12:10 am

      • ken: Quite right too. Never, I repeat never, give your adviser access to your UJ account. They’ll just load it with so-called suitable vacancies in the saved section, and if you decline to apply for at least one of them, they’ll raise a sanction doubt.

        The excuse my adviser trots out every time for wanting access in my case is so that we can do a jobsearch “together”. I always decline, and when I do I get get the “wounded look” – like by declining to give her access, I’ve turned down the opportunity of a lifetime and thrown it back in her face. Jesus! What kind of planet do these f*****g people live on?

        First of all, I’m quite capable of doing a job search on my own. And secondly, why the f*****g hell would I want to set myself up for a sanction.

        jj joop

        September 1, 2014 at 11:23 am

      • Plus I hate nosey parkers.

        Andrew Coates

        September 1, 2014 at 11:32 am

      • They live on planet DWP located somewhere in IDS’s own imagination, but the Jobcentre lackey’s have to believe it actually exists to keep their jobs.

        Obi Wan Kenobi

        September 2, 2014 at 9:42 am

  5. Last time I signed Was 3 years ago. I was working 6 hours a week and my” advisor ” threatened me with sanctions because I asked him to re schedule a back to work interview… reason was I’d be at work!! It got nasty. I insisted. On seeing manager who got my point n re scheduled it, herself. Things seem plenty worse now.

    kat rehman

    September 1, 2014 at 3:52 pm

  6. SHOOTING AT UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE

    Chilling news breaking from down under – gunman kills two people and injures a third at unemployment office in New Zealand.

    Shivering stuff:

    http://www.aol.co.uk/video/gunman-on-the-run-after-two-dead-in-nz-shooting/518394256/?ncid=webmail2

    (I wonder if he had been “sanctioned”)?

    Tobanem

    September 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    • another murder of a jobcentre worker in Germany,

      enigma

      September 2, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    • The new French government, nominally of the left, has taken a very right-wing turn.

      ” Le ministre du travail demande à pole emploi de “renforcer les contrôles” et de prévoir des “sanctions” pour les chômeurs suspectés de “fraude“.”

      The Minister of Labour has demanded of the French Jobcentres to “increase checks”, and to prepare “sanctions” for the unemployed suspected of “fraud”.

      The unemployed will have to present proof of “jobsearch”.

      If they do not they can be sanctioned, right up to having their benefits cut, or even completely cut off.

      Remind you of somewhere?
      http://www.humanite.fr/ouverture-officielle-de-la-chasse-aux-chomeurs-550562

      Andrew Coates

      September 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm

  7. my post work programmer support has now ended it seems and now not even got an adviser they have totally given up even trying it in fact all they ask now is if i had a change in circumstances n thats it, sign n can go. hand in my job search but they dont even look at it any more n just shove it in my book that they keep my claim in and want me in and out fast as possible pmsl.

    super ted

    September 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

  8. Exposed: Jobcentre Benefit Sanctions Culture Revealed – Whistleblower

    full story here.

    http://welfarenewsservice.com/exposed-jobcentre-benefit-sanctions-culture-revealed-whistleblower/

    ken

    September 3, 2014 at 1:28 am

  9. Jester McFail: glad to hear the CC aspect of your interview went off OK. As for them telling you the interview was going to about CC and then no mention was made – sounds like they’re f*****g with your head. Typical Jobcentre bollocks. I’m pretty much in the same boat as you. I’ve been “advised” to find voluntary work off my own back; the implication being, I suppose, if I don’t do it they’ll put me on an MWA – probably in a charity shop for four weeks. Fortunately, I finished the WP last October, so I’ve miss out on the 6 month slave shit. Thank God!

    jj joop

    September 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm

  10. Have just heard that East Anglia is going to be the site for the 35hr 13 week Jobsearch pilot from October.

    Andrew Coates

    September 3, 2014 at 3:46 pm

  11. Yes, yes. Good to read, as the DWP/JCP and these Trainee Providers think that JSA Claimants have no Rights. WE DO! And one of the best Laws we have in the European Human Rights Act 1998. (Forget the deliberate, negative reports, you read in the Press, about this Law)

    And Article 2-the Right to Life-ECHR 1998, means just that. That Article, covers health and safety etc. As health and safety = Life. Article 2 also carries with it a Absolute Right, which means any Body, which comes under the ECHR 1998, cannot breach or attempt to breach it, unless within the specified reasons given with the Articles.

    And you can use this to refuse any placement or order that my threaten your health or safety.

    I having a similar legal matter going on with Seteec. I had been referred on the Mandatory Work Activity. Either working in a Park, or in a Hospice. I told them I had HayFever, Seetec, still tried to put me to work in a Park, cutting Branches, Mowing the Grass! So I refused. I wrote a letter to the DWP and waiting for the results. Keep fighting for Justice.

    mike azur

    September 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm

  12. I would have an ”accident”

    philip

    September 15, 2014 at 7:08 pm


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