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Posts Tagged ‘fraud

Questions about Tackling Fraud , Error in the Benefits System as Universal Credit System still ‘Undeveloped”.

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There is more to this than meets the initial headline.

Spending watchdog urges clearer plans for cutting benefit system fraud and error.

Reports Welfare Weekly.

Efforts to tackle fraud and error in the benefits system must be stepped up following the “meltdown” over Concentrix’s role in the tax credit system, the Commons spending watchdog has said.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said fraud and error remained a “significant problem” for the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Outside contractor Concentrix was tasked with reducing fraud and error in the tax credits system but HMRC announced last month that its contract would not be renewed following complaints that claimants’ payments were wrongly cut.

The PAC welcomed some of the action taken by DWP and HMRC to tackle the problems in the benefits and tax credits systems, but demanded more action.

The report said: “While it is encouraging to see the departments targeting the causes of losses, such as misreported income, they also need clearer plans to reduce fraud and error in other challenging areas such as cohabitation and claimants pretending to live in the UK who live abroad.

“Recent issues relating to HMRC’s contract with Concentrix to investigate suspected fraud and error by tax credit claimants highlights the need to get these plans right.

“We remain disappointed by the absence of stretching targets for tackling fraud and error.”

So far so sadly predictable.

But Lo! there is this:

The committee also raised fresh concerns about the troubled Universal Credit programme, the Government’s flagship welfare reform aimed at simplifying a series of separate benefits into one payment.

The MPs warned that “systems underpinning Universal Credit are still underdeveloped and there are signs of pressure on staff”.

They also raised concerns that the “rigid” monthly assessment period could cause problems for claimants whose pay or rent were based on four-weekly cycles.

The report Universal Credit and fraud and error: progress review section on Universal Credit  says,

The Department started to roll out its “full service” version of Universal Credit to jobcentres in May 2016. It is rolling out at a rate of five centres a month and the Department had planned to scale up to 50 centres a month from February 2017. But on 20 July 2016, just hours before we took oral evidence on this inquiry, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions released a written ministerial statement, outlining a further delay to the roll out of the programme.3 The statement outlined a slower roll-out of the Department’s full service systems, which would continue to roll-out to only five centres a month until June 2017, before increasing the speed of the roll-out. The Department now envisages that the full service will be available in every jobcentre by September 2018 rather than June 2018, and that the roll-out of Universal Credit will now be complete by March 2022, 12 months later than previously announced and four and a half years after October 2017, the planned completion date at the start of the programme.4

3.The Department attributed the delay in roll-out to scope changes following policies announced in the Summer Budget 2015. These include removing eligibility for housing elements from 18 to 21 year olds, reducing the “limited capability for work” element to zero and restricting the number of children that Universal Credit will pay for to a maximum of two.5 These policy changes were announced in July 2015; well before our last evidence session in December 2015, and before the Department submitted its Outline Business Case to HM Treasury for approval in September 2015.6 The Department has therefore had a long time already to consider how to apply the policy changes to its systems, and actually had 21 months in total to implement the changes before they come into force in April 2017.7

4.The Department for Work & Pensions denied that it was attributing wider operational problems to changes in policy, and told us that a recent internal review of the Universal Credit programme concluded that it would have been on track to deliver 50 jobcentres in February 2017, if the Department did not have its issue of new scope to deal with.8 The Department told us that this new timetable should be feasible if no further policy changes are announced.9 Universal Credit has often been described as simplifying the benefit system. But these new delays suggest that the systems underpinning Universal Credit’s design are not adaptable to changes in policy or entitlement, raising questions about the promised flexibility of the new systems.10

Note also,

14.The Department expects people who are in work that earn less than the equivalent of 35 hours per week at the minimum wage to look to work or earn more. This “in-work conditionality” regime is still at a very early stage of development and the Department is undertaking a national trial to see what the best ways are of intervening. Approximately 40% of the current Universal Credit caseload are in work (approximately 112,000 claimants) and are moving into the trial.38 But longer term, the majority of households likely to fall within these requirements will be the 4.4 million families currently in receipt of tax credits, who are not used to such conditions being attached to their entitlement.39 These requirements may lead to families being ‘sanctioned’, or facing a financial penalty, if they cannot demonstrate that they have been looking to increase earnings during their assessment month. The Department stressed to us that the idea of this is to encourage people to work more hours and increase their earnings, not to be a system of punishment, but the Department must be sensitive to individual families’ circumstances (for example varying shift patterns and overtime requests) if the system is to prove effective. The Work and Pensions Select Committee has looked into this area in depth and we will also continue to take an interest in this area as plans develop and in work claimant numbers increase.40

If you have a strong stomach this is worth reading: from the Conclusions,

The Department has not updated its assessment of the expected benefits of Universal Credit in the light of policy and operational changes. The Department has now spent £1.16 billion on implementing Universal Credit, which has a caseload of around 280,000, compared to the over 6 million claimants expected in the long term. Despite having previously estimated that a six month delay to the programme could reduce net benefits to the taxpayer by £2.3 billion, the Department now maintains that the net benefits of the programme have not changed significantly from the £20 billion quoted in its 2015 outline business case. The Department rejected the recommendation we made in February 2016 that it should explain how the business case has changed following changes in policy to Universal Credit and other working age benefits, on the grounds that revising a business case takes four months. However the Department told us that it does have ready-reckoners and is able to model the effect of changes quickly, suggesting that it should have been able to accept our recommendation without causing disproportionate extra work.

Recommendation: We reiterate our previous recommendation that the Department should set out clearly the changes to the business case for Universal Credit since its outline business case in 2015. It should include a brief summary of the policy changes and, using its ready-reckoners, a clear explanation of the impact on the programme’s costs and benefits.

3.Systems underpinning Universal Credit are still underdeveloped and there are signs of pressure on staff. We welcome the fact that the Department has changed its mind and has now accepted our recommendations and those made by the previous Committee concerning the need for better contingency planning. But the Department still has a long way to go before systems will be ready to scale up Universal Credit significantly; we heard, for example, that only 25% of claims in the new full service are paid automatically. We also received written evidence that staff are concerned about the lack of training and the pressures of work preventing adequate testing and learning within the new service.

Recommendation: Before the speed at which Universal Credit is rolled out is increased, the Department should ensure that there are sufficient opportunities for staff to engage in testing and learning processes, and set out for the Committee what it has done to address staff concerns. The Department should write to the Committee to inform it of action taken by May 2017.

4.Universal Credit’s rigid monthly assessment period causes difficulties for claimants whose pay or rent are based on four-weekly periods. Claimants whose pay or rent cycle does not match the monthly assessment period used for Universal Credit may experience difficulties, such as a drop in payment without warning. Similar issues arise when people are paid early for Christmas. The Department’s only solution appears to be to try and persuade employers and landlords to change their pay and rent practices, rather than seeking to make its own systems more flexible. With the number of employees and landlords the former is unlikely to be feasible.

Recommendation:The Department should ensure that claimants whose pay or rent cycles do not align with Universal Credit assessment periods are made aware of this issue and the potential consequences, and are informed of what support is available should this be needed. The Department should also examine what it can do to adapt its systems to cater for these circumstances or provide more information about what it is doing to secure change with employers and landlords.

6.The Department for Work & Pensions’ understanding of the level and causes of fraud and error in Universal Credit and some other benefits is incomplete, potentially undermining efforts to reduce losses. While the Department expects Universal Credit to reduce fraud and error overpayments by £1 billion a year when it is fully rolled out, initial estimates indicate that the level is currently higher than the Jobseeker’s Allowance that it is replacing. The Department attribute this to the difficulty of developing a suitable methodology to measure fraud and error in Universal Credit, as the new benefit is designed to support both those in work as well as those out of work, and to cases where the Department was unable to contact claimants to verify the payment made. The Department does not regularly measure fraud and error across all its other benefits; for example, fraud and error in the payment of Carer’s Allowance has not been measured for 20 years.

Recommendation: The Department for Work & Pensions should: establish and agree with the National Audit Office a robust method for estimating Universal Credit fraud and error; and undertake regular risk assessments to improve its understanding of the causes of fraud and error in those benefits where it has not been measured for some time or at all.

Our conclusion: there are problems about

  • “In-work conditionality” is “at a very early stage of development”:  that is they have no clear idea of what the hell it means and what the rules are.
  • There are new opportunities for – sanctions and “financial penalties”.
  • The system is not yet ready to cope with all claims.
  • Both potential Fraud and Error are a greater problem now for those on Universal Credit (” initial estimates indicate that the level is currently higher than the Jobseeker’s Allowance..”)
  • Rent and Pay cycles are not aligned with Universal Credit so that, claimants may “experience difficulties, such as a drop in payment without warning.”

Ho, ho ho!

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Tax Credit Company Concentrix, from Reign of Terror against Claimants, to Reign of Terror against Critics.

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Band of Terrorising Thieves Not Going Quietly.

Concentrix, whose contract was opposed by PCS members, was very quickly notorious.

This week the story got into the national papers.

It’s not often that something like this comes up and you hear, the next day, about somebody in Ipswich in the thick of the problem.

Last night somebody I know told me about a friend directly affected.

It is, as people can imagine, somebody in a really desperate plight.

Welfare Weekly reports,

‘Reign of terror’ tax credit company loses HMRC contract.

Frank Field, the chair of parliament’s welfare committee, has said that a company’s “reign of terror” over British tax credit recipients will be drawing to a close after HMRC decided not to renew its contract.

US company Concentrix was accused of making a string of mistakes including stopping a teenage single mum from receiving tax credits after wrongly claiming she was married to a dead pensioner.

Field had called on the government to investigate and act on concerns about Concentrix’s handling of tax credit claims.

Following HMRC’s decision not to sign a new contract with the company, Field said: “Concentrix’s reign of terror is drawing to a close. Again the government has acted decisively in protecting vulnerable Britain. This holds out huge prospects and, for some exploiters, horror, in the near future.”

The company won a multimillion pound payment by results contract to prevent incorrect or fraudulent claims in a bid to save government money, earning more money the more claims it stopped.

Now you’d think this would be the end of it.

But this band of thieves are not going quietly,

Private welfare contractor Concentrix blocks BBC programme on Twitter after exposé (Independent).

A private contractor running part of the benefits system has blocked a flagship BBC television programme on Twitter after the show ran a story about its alleged failures.

Concentrix – which has been accused of stopping innocent people’s tax credits – was the subject of an investigation by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday morning.

HMRC on Tuesday night announced that it wouldn’t renew Concentrix’s contract in May 2017 after a string of failures allegedly left people out of pocket.

On Wednesday morning the Victoria Derbyshire programme’s twitter account wrote: “That’ll teach us. Concentrix have blocked us after our exclusive tax credits story.”

The programme posted a screenshot of the company’s page showing they were blocked.

A Concentrix spokesperson defended the company’s record and said it had saved taxpayers £300m in fraud and error throughout the course of its contract.

Perhaps this is a related story (Independent):

Failing’ welfare contractor Concentrix will still be paid tens of millions before its contract runs out

The firm is being dropped by HMRC but not until May 2017.

The private contractor dropped by HMRC from running part of the tax credit system will still be paid tens of millions of pounds before its contract runs out, new figures show.

HMRC’s chief executive Jon Thompson said on Tuesday night the department it would not be extending Concentrix’s contract after a series of high profile failures regarding the non-payment of tax credits.

The contractor is supposed to root out fraud and error in the tax credit system, but reports suggest innocent people on low incomes are having their payments stopped, sometimes for no reason at all.

Figures obtained by Labour MP Louise Haigh show that Concentrix is failing on 120 out of 1625 minimum performance indicators set out in the contract – yet has still already been paid £15.8m in commission.

With the contract only set to end in May 2017 the company will still reap tens of millions of pounds in payments from the three-year contract – despite a so-called “payment by results” system. The total contract pays a total of between £55m and £75m depending on performance indicators met

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Over 85% of Tip-offs for Benefit Fraud are False as Public Encouraged to Inform on Neighbours and ‘Suspicious’ people.

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Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Big Society’. 

More than 85% of public tips on benefit ‘frauds’ are false, reports the Observer today (Thanks: Enigma).

Figures obtained by the Observer show that in the 1m alleged cases of benefit fraud put forward by the public, about 890,000 showed no fraud had taken place.

More than 85% of fraud allegations made by the public over the last five years were false, according to figures obtained by the Observer.

A freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions discloses that between 2010 and 2015 the government closed 1,041,219 alleged cases of benefit fraud put forward by the public. Insufficient or no evidence of fraud was discovered in 887,468 of these. In 2015 alone, of the 153,038 cases closed by the DWP’s Fraud and Error Service, 132,772 led to no action.

People can use an online form on the DWP website to anonymously report suspects, listing their eye colour, piercings, scars, tattoos and other details they deem relevant. Suspicions can also be logged through the DWP benefit fraud hotline.

Information received by the Observer states that more than 1.6 million cases of benefit fraud were opened between 2010 and 2015 after reports logged by the public. Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The alarming number of incorrect reports shows the system has failed, it should be the DWP which investigates benefit fraud, not your closest neighbours. This McCarthy-style reporting of benefit fraud is another example of the government’s desire to turn people against the welfare state and to treat sick and disabled people as second-class citizens.”

Owen Smith, shadow work and pensions secretary, spoke of “the poisonous way the Tories have continually talked down our social security system”. He said: “Where there are abuses of the system they should be dealt with swiftly. However, the government’s constant attempts to paint honest people – like low-paid workers relying on tax credits and universal credit – as ‘skivers’ is creating a hostile and accusatory environment. The Tories should view these results with shame and pledge to turn the page on their divisive rhetoric.”

The history of informing bears mentioning.

Rome: the Delator (Informer).

In Roman history, properly one who gave notice (deferre) to the treasury officials of monies that had become due to the imperial fisc. This special meaning was extended to those who lodged information as to punishable offences, and further, to those who brought a public accusation (whether true or not) against any person (especially with the object of getting money). Although the word delator itself, for “common informer,” is confined to imperial times, the right of public accusation had long existed. When exercised from patriotic and disinterested motives, its effects were beneficial; but the moment the principle of reward was introduced, this was no longer the case. Sometimes the accuser was rewarded with the rights of citizenship, a place in the senate, or a share of the property of the accused. At the end of the republican period, Cicero (De Officiis, ii. 14) expresses his opinion that such accusations should be undertaken only in the interests of the state or for other urgent reasons.

Under the Roman Empire the system became openly corrupt, which reached its height during the reign of Tiberius, although the delators continued to exercise their activity till the reign of Theodosius I. They were drawn from all classes of society—patricians, knights, freedmen, slaves, philosophers, literary men, and, above all, lawyers. The objects of their attacks were the wealthy, all possible rivals of the emperor, and those whose conduct implied a reproach against the imperial mode of life. Special opportunities were afforded by the law of majestas, which originally directed against attacks on the ruler by word or deed came to include all kinds of accusations with which it really had nothing to do; indeed, according to Tacitus, a charge of treason was regularly added to all criminal charges. The chief motive for these accusations was no doubt the desire of amassing wealth,[1] since by the law of majestas one-fourth of the goods of the accused, even if he committed suicide in order to avoid confiscation (which was always carried out in the case of those condemned to capital punishment), was assured to the accuser (who was hence called quadruplator).

Pliny the Elder and Martial mention instances of enormous fortunes amassed by professional delators. But it was not without its dangers. If the delator lost his case or refused to carry it through, he was liable to the same penalties as the accused; he was exposed to the risk of vengeance at the hands of the proscribed in the event of their return, or of their relatives; while emperors like Tiberius would have no scruples about banishing or putting out of the way those whom he had no further use for and who might have proved dangerous to himself.

In the twentieth century every totalitarian tyranny as relied in anonymous informers.

Vichy France was a notorious case, portrayed in the film Le Corbeau (the Raven), in which a village is plagued by unsigned poison-pen letters,

During the Vichy era, French residents sent between three and five million denunciation letters.[3] Civilians sent denunciations to everyone from local officials and law enforcement bureaus to national agencies and individuals such as the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions or even Marshal Pétain himself. Natives of the Limousin denounced newly arrived refugees, while some refugees denounced Limousins or other refugees; long-time neighbors denounced each other; and non-Jewish French men and women denounced “undesirable” Jews. Motivated by material gain, ideological commitment, self-preservation, or petty differences, residents of the region picked up their pens and regularly informed the government of their neighbors’ and acquaintances’ immorality and misdeeds. Individual willingness to resort to denunciations created an atmosphere in which officials noted that “Few people dare to talk. One has a tendency to see in his neighbor a possible denouncer.”[4] While denunciations could provide information on food or “racial” infractions that were admittedly difficult to police, they also created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that opposed the ideals of the National Revolution. Rather than building a stronger community through the purge of harmful elements such as black marketeers, hoarders, and cultural outsiders, denunciations encouraged lying, dissimulation, and self-interested actions.

More:  Denunciations, Community Outsiders, and Material Shortages in Vichy France

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2016 at 11:39 am

Work Programme a Resounding Failure for 70% of Claimants, Work and Pensions Select Committee Reports.

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Work Programme ‘fails to find work for 70% of claimants’.

Reports the BBC

Nearly 70% of people who go through the government’s main welfare-to-work scheme fail to find sustained employment, a committee of MPs says.

The Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee said the £5bn Work Programme – launched in 2011 – was “not working well” for people with complex problems.

But the MPs also said the programme was “at least as good” as its predecessors, at a much lower cost to the taxpayer.

The government said the Work Programme was “a real success”.

  • Follow the latest updates on the day’s political developments on Politics Live

The programme, which replaced a number of different schemes in operation under the last Labour government, is aimed at helping the long-term unemployed find a job.

It is run by providers who offer support and training to people on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and employment and support allowance (ESA). The providers are paid on the basis of the number of people finding and staying in work.

‘Deserves credit’ (er……)

The committee said nearly 70% of people who had completed their two-year attachment to the scheme, which applies in England, Scotland and Wales, had failed to find sustained employment.

The MPs recommended a series of changes to the “complicated and less than effective” payments model when the current contracts expire in April 2017.

People with drug and alcohol addiction, illiteracy and innumeracy and the homeless should be better served, the committee said.

A separate, specialist scheme for people with “substantial disabilities” would also help the government meet its goal to halve the employment rate gap between disabled people and non-disabled people, the MPs added.

Committee chairman Frank Field said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “deserves credit for implementing a programme which, in general, produces results at least as good as before, for a greatly reduced cost per participant”.

But the Labour MP added: “We must not forget that nearly 70% of participants are completing the Work Programme without finding sustained employment. We must do much better.”

‘Value for money’ (more ers….)

The Employment Related Services Association, which represents the programme’s contractors, welcomed the “hugely positive” report and said the next round of contracts had to “build on success“.

(Note: they would wouldn’t they..)

“However, the sector is working with jobseekers with ever greater barriers to work and thus the government has to ensure the next round of programmes also has the right financing in place,” said its chief executive Kirsty McHugh.

The body called for earlier referral of jobseekers, rather than allowing them to stay on benefits without specialist support, and moving to an assessment process based on the needs of jobseekers rather than the benefits they received.

A DWP spokesman said it would respond to the committee’s recommendations “in due course” but pointed out that almost half a million of the hardest-to-help claimants have been supported into employment through the Work Programme.

“That’s a real success, and we welcome the committee’s finding that the programme is better value for money to the taxpayer than any previous scheme.

“The programme helps people to overcome barriers to finding a job, including those with drug and alcohol problems and the long-term unemployed, and further intensive support is offered through Help to Work for those who complete the Work Programme without finding a job.”

This is what the parasites and chancers of the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) said in detail.

ERSA has today welcomed the latest Work and Pensions Committee report on back to work programmes, which has for the first time recognised that the Work Programme has produced results at least as good as previous programmes, but at greatly reduced cost. However, it has called on Government to make sure that future provision builds on this success and that the future financial settlement recognises the costs of supporting jobseekers with ever more complex needs.

The report, the second under the leadership of Committee Chair, Frank Field, comes at a critical time for the sector, with decision making about the shape and financing of future back to work programmes expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The report echoes many of the points within ERSA’s own blueprint for future services, Evolution not Revolution’including the need for additional government expenditure on jobseekers who are furthest from the labour market. In addition, ERSA backs calls from the Committee for earlier referral of jobseekers, rather than allowing them to stay on benefits without specialist support, and moving to an assessment process based on real jobseeker need rather than benefit type.

Other points supported by ERSA include:

  • The need to integrate employment services with wider services, including health and skills, required by jobseekers
  • Enabling more specialist providers, particularly of disability services, to play their part
  • The introduction of an ‘innovation fund’ used to test and develop new approach to supporting jobseekers

Speaking in response to the report, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA, said:

“This report comes at a critical time.  It’s hugely positive that the Committee has recognised the great work of the sector in helping the long term unemployed into work. However, the sector is working with jobseekers with ever greater barriers to work and thus the government has to ensure the next round of programmes not only builds on success, but also has the right financing in place.’

The Report is here:

This is the summary,

The Work Programme has streamlined the procurement of welfare-to-work, created a stable, GB-wide welfare-to-work infrastructure, and now produces a similar level of job outcomes for mainstream participants as previous programmes. DWP deserves credit for implementing a programme which, in general, produces results at least as good as before for a greatly reduced cost per participant.

Yet too many long-term unemployed people remain out of work after two years on the programme. It must not be forgotten that nearly 70% of participants are completing the Work Programme without finding sustained employment. In particular, the Work Programme is not working well for people with more complex or multiple barriers to employment who need more intensive help. We have a duty to the 70% to do much better.

The focus for the next set of contracts must be to identify claimants who require more personalised and intensive support to address complex barriers to working, and refer them to appropriate help more quickly. To achieve this DWP needs to:

  • Develop and introduce a new, standardised, characteristic-based assessment of claimants’ barriers to work, for use across the employment support sector;
  • Replace the Work Programme’s complicated and less than effective differential payment model with a much simpler payment model with clearer (and generally earlier) referral points, and which more directly incentivises providers to invest resources in supporting people with complex needs;
  • Ensure that all participants receive an acceptable level of service, by introducing a single set of measurable minimum standards; and
  • Maintain, and ideally expand, a separate employment programme for disabled people, while also addressing key flaws in the current Work Choice programme.

Improved assessment and triage, alterations to contracts and more effective payment models will help, but are only part of the answer. The Government will also need to encourage, facilitate and invest in:

  • More effective integration of employment support with related, locally-run services, including health, education and skills, and housing; and
  • Creating the conditions for genuine innovation, learning and dissemination of best practice across the employment support sector.

DWP should establish an Employment Support Innovation Fund, set at 2–3% of the total budget for the next mainstream programme, which should be used to test and develop innovative and effective approaches to employment support for groups which have been poorly served to date. The Cabinet Office should bring labour market policy into the remit of a What Works Centre, so that employment programmes can continue to evolve based on robust evidence of what is most likely to be effective for different types of people in different localities.

These changes would create an employment support system which is set up better to address the challenges of the contemporary labour market, and equipped to help into work people who have been distant from the labour market, and inadequately supported, for far too long.

This is straw that the welfare-business chancers clutch at,

8.DWP deserves credit for implementing a programme which, in general, produces results at least as good as previous programmes for a greatly reduced cost per participant. It has also established a stable GB-wide welfare-to-work infrastructure and brought about efficiencies in DWP’s procurement and contract-management. It is vital that the Government continues to encourage, facilitate and invest in new and more effective approaches; it must not be forgotten that, notwithstanding the relative successes, nearly 70% of Work Programme participants are still not achieving the desired outcome of sustained employment. We owe it to the 70% to do much better. We intend to keep a watching brief on DWP’s efforts to support this group and we may return to this issue later in this Parliament. (Paragraph 87).

We note that no organisation campaigning for the unemployed gave evidence. These are the people who did.

Sam Hanes, Principal Adviser and Head, Labour Market and Economic Growth, The Behavioural Insights Team, Tom Gash, Director of Research, Institute for Government, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, Employment Related Services Association, and Dave Simmonds, Chief Executive, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion

Q1-57

Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive, Pluss, Liz Armstrong, Director of Health and Wellbeing & Integrated Services, APM UK, Dan Jones, Director of Innovation Lab, Nesta, and Christine Chang, Investment Director, Big Society Capital

Q58-98

Monday 14 September 2015

Robyn Fairman, Strategic Lead, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark Pathways to Employment Programme, Mat Ainsworth, Greater Manchester Lead for Employment Initiatives, Public Service Reform Team, New Economy, Dr David Halpern, What Works National Adviser, Cabinet Office, Kris Krasnowski, Director, Central London Forward, and Theresa Grant, Greater Manchester Chief Executive Lead for Employment and Skills.

Q99-135

Rt Hon Priti Patel, Minister for Employment, Matt Thurstan, Director, Senior Management and Business Management Team, Contracted Employment Provision Directorate, and Iain Walsh, Director, Labour Market and international Affairs, Department for Work and Pensions.

There is nothing about how claimants feel about the Work Programme, or  about workfare, and the effects of sanctions.

Nothing about the abuses of the system by the ‘contractors’, and the exploitation of claimants on Mandatory Work Activity and other scams.

Meanwhile in the real world we learn that all long-term unemployed will now attend an hour’s special courses every time they sign on – delivered by the Job Centres. 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2015 at 10:04 am

DWP Fake Work Case Studies: if it is not PR Companies *who* is Responsible and will they be Sanctioned? ?

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CIPR closes investigation into DWP fake case studies

Sarah’s story: Turned out to be fiction rather than fact

The CIPR has closed its investigation into the Department for Work and Pensions’ use of comments and images from fake benefits claimants in a leaflet designed to demonstrate the positive impact of a controversial government policy.

The investigation was launched on 19 August, after a Freedom of Information request disclosed that a number of individuals depicted in the leaflet  were stock photos, and their stories were fictional, albeit “based on conversations our staff have had with claimants”, the DWP said at the time. The institute investigated this case of ‘astroturfing’ – falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support – on the grounds that such practices contravene its Code of Conduct due to a lack of honesty and integrity, and that they bring the profession into disrepute.

In early September, the CIPR agreed to suspend its investigation following confirmation that the DWP was conducting its own investigation.

In a statement published on Friday, the CIPR said it had now been confirmed by the DWP that no members of the institute were involved in or responsible for the leaflet. The CIPR’s investigation has therefore been closed.

The CIPR said it had been told by the Government Communications Service that government comms professionals “continue to be advised of expected standards of best practice in line with the Civil Service Code”.

Sarah Pinch, president of the CIPR, said: “Honest regard for the public interest; delivering reliable and accurate information; and a commitment to never knowingly mislead are vital components of proper professional practice – and I am pleased that in this case, the DWP and GCS have confirmed that no members of the institute were involved.

“This is an opportunity to remind members of the CIPR that they are publicly accountable for the standard of their professional conduct, and the conduct of those under their management. This accountability is a valuable asset not just to members themselves, but also to the public, to clients and to those who employ them.”

The DWP was not immediately able to confirm the progress of its internal investigation.

Ipswich Unemployed Action comments:

If members of the CIPR were not involved, who were?

They must have worked for the DWP, in some fashion, to produce the material.

Were they DWP employees or some kind of outsourced company?

Who were they responsible to – the person/people with the ultimate authority in this affair?

We know one thing the DWP have not done.

To put it simply: they have not responded in any effective way when found out fabricating stories.

That is to sanction those in a position of ultimate responsibility for  making up ‘facts’.

Nobody has – yet – been held accountable.

We therefore have no guarantee that these practices will not be repeated.

Background. CIPR.

On Wednesday 19 August, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) launched an investigation into the actions of communications professionals at the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). This followed the publication of a response to a Freedom of Information request which revealed that the DWP had published leaflets about benefits sanctions that included comments attributed to named individuals who did not exist.

The Institute sought to investigate this case of ‘astroturfing’ – falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support – as such practices contravene the CIPR’s Code of Conduct by:

  • not maintaining an expected standard of professional integrity and personal conduct
  • failing to deal honestly and fairly in business with the public
  • bringing the public relations profession into disrepute.

After agreeing to suspend its own investigation following confirmation that an internal investigation would be led by the DWP, it has now been confirmed to the CIPR that no members of the Institute were directly involved – or responsible for overseeing the delivery of this work. As a result, the Institute has formally closed any processes to take a complaint forward.

In addition, the Government Communications Service (GCS) has also informed the Institute that communications professionals across central government continue to be advised of expected standards of best practice in line with the Civil Service Code. This code is also supported by the required professional, ethical and moral standards as set out through any individual membership of other relevant professional bodies and trade associations.

As the chartered body for public relations we have a mandate to speak out and investigate the actions of public relations professionals for the public benefit, and we will continue to challenge any behaviour which falls short of the professional standards we represent.

Honest regard for the public interest; delivering reliable and accurate information; and a commitment to never knowingly mislead are vital components of proper professional practice – and I am pleased that in this case, the DWP and GCS have confirmed that no members of the Institute were involved.

This is an opportunity to remind members of the CIPR that they are publicly accountable for the standard of their professional conduct, and the conduct of those under their management. This accountability is a valuable asset not just to members themselves, but also to the public, to clients and to those who employ them.

Sarah Pinch FCIPR, CIPR President 2015
Notes to editors

The original story.

DWP admits inventing quotes from fake ‘benefits claimants’ for sanctions leaflet.

A leaflet produced by the Department of Work and Pensions has been hastily withdrawn after it emerged that it contained fabricated quotations from fictitious people supposedly taking about their positive experiences of the welfare system.

The leaflet included pictures of “Sarah” and “Zac”, who were presented as sickness benefits claimants who had their some of their benefits withdrawn or had been threatened with benefit removal.

“Sarah” was quoted as saying that she had lost some of her benefit because she had initially failed to produce a CV. “I didn’t think a CV would help me but my work coach told me that all employers need one. I didn’t have a good reason for not doing it and I was told I’d lose some of my payment,” she said.

When she completed her CV, her payments were restored, the leaflet said. “My benefit is back to normal now, and I’m really pleased with how my CV looks. It’s going to help me when I’m ready to go back to work,” she was quoted as saying.

According to the leaflet, Zac said he had managed to change an appointment with his “work coach” without losing any of his benefit because he had a hospital appointment. “I had a good reason for not going to the meeting and proof of the appointment. My benefit payment hasn’t changed and we booked another meeting I could get to.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Iain Duncan Smith Should Resign as Work and Pensions Secretary,

with 11 comments

Demand Iain Duncan Smith resign over lying to public in DWP sanctions leaflets

Demand Iain Duncan Smith resign over lying to public in DWP sanctions leaflets

Petition here.

This is the least we can demand of them:

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding Iain Duncan Smith resign as Work and Pensions Secretary, it has been revealed.

Reports Welfare Weekly.

The news comes as Labour MP Debbie Abrahams branded the use of ‘fake quotes’ in a DWP sanctions leaflet a “disgrace”, and joined the growing chorus of people calling on Iain Duncan Smith to step down.

Debbie Abrahams said: “This is yet another example of not only his incompetence, but what can only be described as very shady and unscrupulous behaviour not befitting a Member of Parliament let alone a Secretary of State leading a Government Department.

“Once again Duncan Smith is caught trying to paint a particular picture of social security claimants. He is a disgrace and should do the honourable thing and resign.”

Welfare Weekly revealed earlier this week how the DWP had misled the public, by using fabricated quotes in a benefit sanctions information leaflet from claimants that don’t exist.

Now, nearly 22,000 people (correct at the time of publication) have signed a petition, claiming “the Government has lied to the British public” and branding the leaflet “pure lies” and “fantasy”.

The petition, written by Beth G, says: “Stopping people’s benefits such as job seeker’s allowance, known as sanctioning, is driving people to suicide. People are resorting to stealing food in order to not starve.

“Sanctions do not encourage people to get jobs. Sanctions are known to be given to people for extremely minor reasons such as being five minutes late for an appointment.

“If someone has a heart-attack or has to attend a family members’ funeral and misses an appointment – they could be sanctioned and lose their benefits.

It adds: “Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is ultimitely [sic] responsible for the actions of those in his department, who produced the propaganda leaflet containing lies, presenting a fantasy of positive stories about sanctions. This distorts the truth, which is that people are dying due to sanctions.

“In addition to being responsible for the terrible effects of sanctions on hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, the Department for Work and Pensions lying to the public in this way is not acceptable.”

Written by Andrew Coates

August 22, 2015 at 9:54 am

DWP: Benefits Cuts Fine with Us Say Sanctioned Claimants.

with 22 comments

All credit to Welfare Weekly who broke this story:

Exclusive: DWP Admits Using Fake Claimant’s Comments In Benefit Sanctions Leaflet.

Government officials have admitted that claimant’s comments used in an official benefit sanctions information leaflet were “for illustrative purposes only”.

The revelation comes in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Welfare Weekly, in which we questioned whether the comments used in the leaflet were of a genuine or fake nature.

Welfare Weekly asked the DWP to provide any evidence or information to prove that the comments used in the publication were from “genuine” claimants.

Within days of submitting our request to the DWP, the original information leaflet suddenly disappeared from the government’s website without explanation.

However, we had already downloaded a copy of the leaflet (pdf) in anticipation of the response to our FOI request.

The story is now all across the media.

METRO FRONT PAGE: 'Department for Work and Invention' #skypapers

The Guardian reports,

The DWP was asked by the specialist website Welfare Weekly whether the comments used were from benefit claimants. Following their query, which was made under the Freedom of Information Act, the original leaflet was taken down from the DWP’s site and replaced with one that illustrated Zac and Sarah only in silhouette.

That was accompanied by a clarifying note that said: “The people in this factsheet aren’t real. We’ve used these stories to show how sanctions can work in practice.” However, that second leaflet was also deleted on Tuesday evening.

Responding to Welfare Weekly’s FoI request, the DWP conceded that: “The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants. The stories are for illustrative purposes only.

“We want to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help us achieve this.

Labour leadership candidates condemned the department for producing the leaflet , with Andy Burnham saying the DWP had been “caught red-handed”, and Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall calling on the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to apologise.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “The fact that the DWP has to make up quotes from benefit claimants saying sanctions are helping them, presumably because they can’t find anyone who says they are, not only shows how out of touch the Tories are, but also the effects their ideologically driven policies are having on people’s lives.”

Iain Duncan Smith stayed in his comfort zone.

A DWP source said that Duncan Smith would not have had any knowledge of the leaflet before it was published.

The DWP remained in denial.

A DWP spokesman said: “The case studies were used for illustrative purposes to help people understand how the benefit system works. They’re based on conversations our staff have had with claimants. They have now been removed to avoid confusion.”

Others were not so smug.

Advertising Standards Authority rules state that “marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so”. The regulator’s rules also say that marketers “must hold documentary evidence that a testimonial or endorsement used in a marketing communication is genuine, unless it is obviously fictitious, and hold contact details for the person who, or organisation that, gives it”.

The Public Commercial Services Union said that it planned to write to the DWP to complain that it was irresponsible of the government to invent the stories to “illustrate the contentious belief that sanctions are welcomed by claimants”.

The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “It is disgraceful and sinister that the DWP has been trying to trick people into believing claimants are happy to have their benefits stopped or threatened. Sanctions are unnecessarily punitive and counterproductive, and should be scrapped.”

Unite’s assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, said: “This is a shameful attempt by Iain Duncan Smith to bend the truth and gloss over the human misery of his cruel sanctions regime.

The wits of the Internet were not slow in reacting either:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2015 at 10:20 am