Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Work and Pensions Select Committee Hearing on Sanctions, this Wednesday.

Right Hon Esther McVey MP looking a Right Sight.

Hat-tip: Obi.

 The Work and Pensions Select Committee announce the final oral evidence session for its inquiry into benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review.


At 9.30am, Wednesday 4 February 2015, Wilson Room, Portcullis House

Department for Work and Pensions:

  • Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Minister of State for Employment
  • Chris Hayes, Director, Labour Market and International Affairs

Purpose of the session

The session is intended to explore the Government’s position on a range of issues highlighted during the inquiry, including

  • The development of benefit sanctions policy and the evidence base
  • The Government’s response to the Oakley Review and progress towards implementation of its recommendations
  • The setting of appropriate benefit conditions and the sanctions decision-making process
  • The culture around conditionality and sanctions within DWP/JCP and the case for an independent review
  • Protecting claimants against hardship
  • The appropriateness of ESA sanctioning

Oakley sanctions review – responses from other organisations January 2014

From the PCS  response:

Target and expectation culture must be stopped

PCS is demanding that DWP must take action to stop the target and ‘expectation’ culture for sanction referrals, which is shown by 23% of those surveyed having an explicit target for sanction referrals, and 81% having an ‘expectation’ level. These levels are shocking as both DWP and Ministers claim that targets do not exist at all.

It is no longer acceptable for WSD Management to deny that there is a problem or claim that issues are just isolated incidents. They must take responsibility for the regime that sees 61% of surveyed members experiencing pressure to refer claimants where they believe it may be appropriate.

Performance action used to threaten staff

Worryingly 36% of members stated that they have been placed on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), and 10% have gone through formal poor performance procedures for not making ‘enough’ referrals.

It’s clear that performance procedures are being used to push staff into making more and more referrals, rather than used to challenge staff who ‘refuse to sanction’ as DWP claim. Poor performance action can lead to dismissal, it is therefore a thinly veiled threat to your employment if you don’t make ‘enough’ referrals. Nor is there any evidence that staff who make an excessive number of referrals are challenged using the same procedures.

The specific PIP tool designed by WSD management to monitor sanction referrals completely contradicts the Employment Minister’s statement to Parliament on 24th January 2014 which said that “there are no sanction targets or expectations for numbers of referrals.”

The GEC will continue to challenge WSD management and provide advice to members on how they can resist this action. Members are encouraged to seek help and support from a PCS representative if they find themselves under threat of action.


Social Consequence of sanctioning

We believe the survey results highlight the devastating impact the conditionality regime has on benefit claimants. 70% of members completing the survey did not believe that sanctioning has a positive impact on a claimant finding work, and 76% have seen an increase in foodbank referrals.

The government has stated that they make no assessment of the link between sanctioning and foodbank referrals. We believe that the Government must analyse and take responsibility for the effects of sanctioning on claimants and their families.


The GEC is working with the Unite Community branches and the Unemployed Workers Centre on joint work to raise claimants’ awareness of their rights and to produce campaign material. This survey shows that whilst some members may support some aspects of conditionality, the punitive regime with its target culture is opposed. PCS understand but do not accept the anger directed towards DWP staff because of sanctioning and other welfare reform issues. We will use the survey results to campaign against the regime, and also raise awareness of the views and feelings of our members.

From the previous discussion,

House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee report of 20 Jan 2014 on The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System made the following recommendations on sanctions:

para. 97 We recommend that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by benefit sanctions, including by collecting, collating and publishing data on the number of claimants “signposted” to food aid by Jobcentres and the reasons for claimants’ need for assistance in these cases.

para. 100 It is important that JCP makes fair and proportionate sanction referrals and that the process is transparent. We welcome the current independent review which will focus on the clarity of communications between JCP and claimants in relation to the conditionality and sanctioning process; the availability of hardship payments for sanctioned claimants; and the clarity of the review and appeals process. We strongly believe that a further review is necessary and welcome the Minister’s commitment to launch a second and separate review into the broader operation of the sanctioning process.

para. 101 We recommend that the second review of sanctions investigate: whether sanction referrals are being made appropriately, fairly and proportionately, in accordance with the relevant Regulations and guidance, across the Jobcentre network; and the link between sanctioning and benefit off-flow, including whether benefit off-flow targets have an influence on sanctioning rates. We also recommend that this review consider whether, and to what extent, the use of sanctions is having the desired effect of encouraging claimants to engage more actively in job-seeking. We further recommend that this review is launched as a matter of urgency and reports before the end of 2014.

The Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee held an evidence session on sanctions on 1 April 2014.

The House of Commons had a debate on sanctions on Thursday 3 April, the following motion by Michael Meacher which was carried.

‘Resolved, That this House notes that there have been many cases of sanctions being wrongfully applied to benefit recipients; and calls on the Government to review the targeting, severity and impact of such sanctions.’ (col.1082)

The government published its reply to the Work & Pensions Committee report on 3 April 2014.

The government has gone back on the commitment to a further inquiry post-Oakley which was made to the Work and Pensions Committee by the Employment Minister Esther McVey on 20 November (Qu. 570-71) and reaffirmed in a letter of 1 February 2014.

Now, the government reply states:

‘We have already committed to an independent review by Matthew Oakley which will look primarily at the communications to claimants and offer recommendations to improve the operations of the sanctions process.And we will be publishing further information on sanctions through the forthcoming Work Programme Evaluation and the claimant commitment research to help inform our future strategy. We are fully committed to monitoring the current regime to ensure it continues to deliver the intended outcomes and will assess whether any further evaluation is needed once the current evaluation programmes have concluded.’


39 Responses

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  1. Here in Cornwall I’m informed that about a fortnight ago JCP Liskeard stopped referring “clients” to our local foodbank. They currently get about 11% of referrals from there. When the foodbank complained to the local M.P. this policy was reversed. Is this just local malice or part of a wider programme, perhaps so the govt can claim foodbank referrals are going down?


    February 3, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    • There as plenty of malice from the very top – the Liberal-Conservative Coalition.

      Proof: the weekly signing on pilot already mentioned by posters here.

      Andrew Coates

      February 3, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      • Local malice too Andrew, one of our “Work Coaches” was caught dissing claimants on Facebook in the firms time! Google “Gary Dyer, Jobcentre” if you want a laugh at the punky hairdood pincushion pierced ink stained fucking clown.


        February 3, 2015 at 4:40 pm

  2. I really hope McVey give’s good ‘Squirm’ in front of the committee!

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 3, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    • Snake comes to mind.


      February 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm

  3. Link to McVile

    Only those with a strong stomach should watch.


    February 4, 2015 at 8:37 am

  4. It is actually being shown on BBC Parliament Channel – now.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 9:32 am

  5. Glenda Jackson is getting stuck in to McVey.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 9:52 am

  6. McVey is not answering the questions put here, she keeps running off into other area’s and bullshit statistics.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 10:07 am

  7. McVey still not answering the questions put to her.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 10:25 am

  8. McVey Quote:

    “There are no sanction targets and no harassment” at JCP’s regarding benefit claimants.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 10:31 am

  9. I cant wait to watch the whole thing as ive only started watching it so missed an hour already.


    February 4, 2015 at 10:38 am

  10. Hayes Quote:

    “DWP now using HMRC real time to track people when they come off benefits”

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 10:45 am

  11. If you listen to the right of the committee then watch MCvey and partner you can clearly see they have the notes already, suggesting a pre rehearsed script.


    February 4, 2015 at 10:49 am

    • Sorry I must clarify direction so as to not mislead any of you.

      If you are facing the committee listen to the left of the committee then watch MCvey and partner, you can clearly see they have the notes already, suggesting a pre rehearsed script between themselves and that part of the committee asking questions.


      February 4, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      • This committee hearing, on sanctions is obviously not good enough, it should be held in a court of law. as we all know.


        February 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

  12. On the question of making a claimant commitment ester has lied as ask any advisor to put in something unique to yourself and they will state that it only has so many options to choose from and cannot type anything into it as the system doesn’t allow for such an approach.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:02 am

  13. On the subject of jobseeker directions unless the rules have changed an advisor cannot issue a JD unless the claimant refuses something they deem reasonable to do and can demonstrate as such.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:05 am

  14. McVey: the bullshit she is coming out with is unbelievable.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 11:21 am

  15. In around about way ester is stating that the system works but that the and she doesn’t actually say as such but none the less implies it is the ADVISORS who are making the error.

    I hope PCS has there ears on.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:30 am

    • Yes now the blame game, as per usual.


      February 4, 2015 at 11:34 am

  16. Also being implied is that sanctions is a caring nudge to help claimants that cant be supported until they have been sanctioned.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:34 am


    Vote SYRIZA!!

    February 4, 2015 at 11:38 am

  18. On the subject on hardship payments towards JSA claimants Ester conveys its quite expectable that claimants cant feed themselves if sanctioned yet and the committee failed to bring this up, that we don’t even do this to criminals whether their convicted or under suspicion of.

    Neither was it asked whether or not ester assumed that a sanctioned claimant had money in reserve.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:41 am

  19. Ester stated the claimant commitment is a contract yet when you pull them up on the basis of non and void, DWP claim its not a contract.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:43 am

  20. When Ester states look into, she means sweep under the carpet as all they do is send some hotshot from London to offer anything to the claimant that is covered under the welfare framework.

    Im not making a statement based on a story, im stating a personal fact that happened to me.


    February 4, 2015 at 11:48 am

  21. Why must the majority conform as Ester puts if she admits the fast majority already conform and why welfare ministers felt the need to increase the grounds for sanctions ?

    Also she stated the new system got nearly 2 million people into work yet earlier her DWP partner declared they cannot state with any certainty that they actually went into work sanctioned or not because as yet they don’t engage with HMRC to prove there point.


    February 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm

  22. Ester stated a claimant isn’t legally Obliged to find and engage in work yet with the same breath states claimant commitments are a contract where you agree to look for and find work.

    A contract people verbal or written is binding under law.

    The two basic rules to the formation of a legal contract is offer and acceptance and is only not so when the contract is vague and or ambiguous.

    You would think someone as educated as Ester Mcvey would know this leading me to only two conclusions.

    Either she is not fit for the post she holds or as I believe flat out lying or should I say deliberately misleading the committee and yes I’m quite happy for Ester Mcvey to take me to a civil court under the guise of defamation as I relish the challenge quite frankly.


    February 4, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    • I would say ex chat show hosts shouldn’t be allowed into politics but as you have a clown equally inept being her boss, yes one Ian Duncan Smith, it would be I consider calling the kettle black.


      February 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm

  23. As a jobcentre adviser, I got ‘brownie points’ for cruelty.

    Former jobcentre adviser Angela Neville has written a play to expose the harsh reality of the benefits sanctions regime.

    Angela Neville, 48, is describing events she witnessed as a special adviser in a jobcentre that prompted her to write a play about her experiences.

    “We were given lists of customers to call immediately and get them on to the Work Programme,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I’m sorry this can’t happen, this man is in hospital.’ I was told [by my boss]: ‘No, you’ve got to phone him and you’ve got to put this to him and he may be sanctioned.’ I said I’m not doing it.”

    Neville worked as an adviser in Braintree jobcentre, Essex, for four years and has written a play with two collaborators, her friends Angela Howard and Jackie Howard, both of whom have helped advocate for unemployed people who were threatened with benefit sanctions by jobcentre staff.

    The title of the play, Can This be England? is an allusion to the disbelief that she and the others feel at how people on benefits are being treated, she says. And she unashamedly describes the play, in which she also acts, as a “dramatic consciousness-raising exercise”.


    Follow the link for much more to this story.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm

  24. Lets talk about a 3 year sanction and hardship payments shall we ?


    A person can go without food for a longer period of time than water. However, going without food for a few days or even up to a week will make us feel quite different. Some of the symptoms of lack of nutrients from food are weakness, making poor decisions, lethargy, irritability and confusion.


    Draw your own conclusions.


    February 4, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    • If you go without food for even a few days you will in all likelihood suffer light-headedness, faint and keel over, (which could result in you hitting your head with possible fatal consequences). Going without food even for relatively short periods of time is a no-no.


      February 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      • Also, if you go for food for even relatively short periods of time your heart will be the first organ of your body to suffer; it’s electrolytic balance will become disturbed leading to palpitations, arrhythmias, myocardial infraction (heart attack) with, again, possibly fatal consequences. It is criminal that a government department (dwp) can do, what effectively is murdering human beings, and what seems to be the case get off with it scot free.


        February 4, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      • PS Anyone who goes without food will be DEAD!!


        February 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      • PS Anyone who goes without food for a month will be DEAD!!


        February 4, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    • PPS And you can only survive without water for three days – this is one of the quickest ways of killing someone, as so often happens in hospitals…. the glass of water just out of arms reach…


      February 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm

  25. Neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems who made it possible for a Tory led coalition will ever admit that benefit sancitons have been the cause of starvation, even though Jobcentres refer failed claimants direct to foodbanks.

    Now that the retirement age was raised, those aged 60-68 or even 73 now face
    NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and being within this ever reducing benefit
    that causes hunger and freezing in unheated homes.
    See why the state pension is all but abolished under my petition, in my
    WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT section, at:

    Foodbanks in the UK are not the daily free cafes provided by charities / councils in the EU, which provide a free cooked hot meal and hot drink, without the conditionality of restricted number of vouchers per year, equally to the working poor, poor pensioners and the unemployed.

    Fareshare, the supplier of the foodbanks, does not receive subsidy from the government, and so can only gain 5,000 tonnes of surplus food a year, and misses out on gaining 400,000 tonnes of surplus food, which goes either to landfill or to energy from waste power stations, which do get state subsidy.

    In Europe, many nations forbid any food waste from going to landfill.

    Sanctions longer than one week, mean nil money to find work, so it is not a surprise that many do not gain work, despite their lives depending upon it.

    The body is made by food and water. The entire body needs nutrients to function.

    As a person can die of starvation within a few weeks, benefit sanctions of several months is a serious medical threat to life.

    But further, to do sanctions in winter is also a threat to life from hypothermia in an unheated home, of whatever age.

    Doctors in England and Wales have been saying again and again that there has been a huge rise of malnutrition NHS hospital admissions.


    February 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm

  26. Who wants to go to the jobcentre after a hard days work working poor on zero hours contract draw up a hit list of greedy employers who dont pay a living wage,Also the jocentre freeloaders like Breezmount,Poundland,Tesco,Asda,British heart foundation how many advisors will be at serious risk of grevious bodily harm, After you just been abused by your employer.

    Tony Montana

    February 24, 2015 at 5:13 am

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