Category Archives: DWP

Sandra Gives The Game Away: Jobcentres Given Sheriff’s Stars For Hitting Benefit Sanction Targets

sanction-sheriffSandra Lambert, manager of 149 Jobcentres and self-styled lifestyle guru, has spent much of the last few days frantically blocking people on twitter who have been taking the piss out of the cringemaking motivational advice she inflicts on the poor bastards who work for her.

She wasn’t fast enough however to hide the tweet in which she awarded a Texas style sherriff’s badge to Jobcentres in the midlands for upholding their DMA decision rate – as spotted by @refuted.  A DMA means a referral to a Jobcentre ‘decision maker’ to process a benefit sanction.  It is the second time this month a DWP manager has been exposed praising their staff for hitting benefit sanction targets - targets that Iain Duncan Smith’s department have repeatedly claimed do not exist.

It is not just that the DWP are lying which is so contempible, all government departments lie after all.  It is the sheer glee that has accompanied this policy of driving people into desperate poverty should they happen to miss a meeting with the Jobcentre or call in sick for workfare.

There is no argument anymore, benefit sanctions kill.  They are the cause of desperate suffering as has now been well documented by organisations which work with claimants such as Citizen’s Advice, MIND, Gingerbread, Oxfam, Homeless Link and countless others.  Whatever your views on the social security system there should be no doubt, benefit sanctions are intended as punishment, and that punishment is severe.

To hear that Jobcentre staff are being given Easter eggs, or gold stars or Texas fucking badges as prizes for inflicting this regime is repugnant.  There is something very wrong at the DWP when the tears and broken lives they cause are met with laughter and merriment and fucking competitions to do it to as many people possible.  Do they get a bonus if they sanction someone who goes on to top themself?  An extra pat on the head if someone is sick and may not last the Winter if they can’t afford to put the heating on?  At the very least you might expect some dignity, sensitivity and awareness of the seriousness of their actions.  But instead it’s just a big fucking joke.  Has a government department ever sunk any lower?

Perhaps this is the reason for the glassy-eyed nonsense that seems to inflict many of the managers at the DWP.  Perhaps it is the only way they can sleep at night. By turning the whole wretched and inhumane system that they oversee into some kind of twisted game where they compete to keep each other’s spirit’s high as their hands become ever more stained with blood.  But that is no excuse.  The consequences of their actions are all too real and no amount of happy clappy slogans will fill a hungry child’s belly or talk a desperate person out of suicide.

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Pauline Got Promoted! DWP Management Psychobabble Is Turning Jobcentres Into Cults

pauline-pensIf you want an example of the glassy-eyed idiots currently handed senior positions at the DWP then the twitter feed of the regional manager responsible for 149 Jobcentres in Central England is a good place to start.

When not attending tax payer funded leadership and emotional intelligence workshops, Sandra Lambert seems to spend most of her day tweeting ‘inspirational’ claptrap from her feed @CEDirector_WSD
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The most disturbing thing is that she is not alone. This nonsense seems to extend across DWP management.

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jc-tweets1jeanThe Jobcentre is starting to look more like a cult than a public service.  And like most cults behind the bubbly and uplifting facade lies cruelty, exploitation and abuse. Here’s some more of Sandra’s motivational tweets, along with some words from the victims of the current sanction happy regime in Jobcentres.

“I have been told by staff at the Jobcentre that people like me are ‘scrounging scum’, and told ‘you don’t look sick, you’re lying’” 

MIND report into the impact of benefit conditionality on people with mental health conditions: Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“When some [staff] talk to you on the phone it is in such a derogatory way that you end up walking away wanting to end your life. Confidence and assertiveness takes a real hit.”

Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“losing my benefits brought back that feeling of insecurity and struggling… it brought me back to the behaviours that I was used to in addiction.”

High Cost To Pay Homeless Link report into benefit sanctions.

“I explained to my Jobcentre adviser that I suffer severe anxiety and IBS and cannot always leave my home; I gave doctors letters but she said if I didn’t attend [Work Programme provider] she would sanction my money. I had no choice but to go as I cannot pay for food and heat already. I attended the twin training centre and had an anxiety attack. I had to leave and find my way home feeling very ill and frightened; a horrific experience.” Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

Caller E is being threatened with a sanction by her work programme provider. She is unable to leave her two daughters alone – one of whom has health problems – to attend back to work courses in the summer holidays. No help with childcare costs has been offered.

Gingerbread report: Single parents and benefit sanctions, November 2014 (PDF)

“My mum has been taken to court and fined for not being able to pay the shortfall in council tax and is struggling to pay the rent arrears accrued when I was sanctioned and the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces – I feel like a burden on her and have felt suicidal on more than one occasion.”

“My partner also cares for me so he was left incredibly stressed and upset from this situation [being sanctioned] due to firstly no money (he has to look after me full time pretty much) and secondly my conditions and mental state became so hard to cope with (it also affected his mental health, he attempted suicide when he could not cope).”

“Starved and lived off what I had [due to sanction]. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas so had to get ready-to-eat food. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days with just bread and a block of cheese that my friend kindly gave me as it was past its sell by date.”

“The stress put us both in hospital with stress-related problems. We were refused hardship payments but later got this [revoked] because we went to CAB and Shelter. It had a massive effect on our son, who at one point was being considered for going into care because we couldn’t provide for him.”

“I wasn’t long out of a safe house for domestic abuse I tried to commit suicide and my doctor had to put my medication up and I have to get someone to collect them weekly.”

All from Punishing Poverty, Manchester CAB report into the impact of benefit sanctions.

h/t @screenedout @lynnfriedli @boycottworkfare

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Benefit Delays Set To Soar As Waiting Period Increases To Pay For Workfare

macmillanThe number of people dependent on food banks is likely to soar as the government have pushed ahead with plans to increase the waiting period for the main out of work benefits.

According to the largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, benefit delays are the reason almost a third of claimants find themselves having to resort to emergency food packages.  On the 27th October this year the length of time before a benefit claim can be made upon becoming sick, disabled or unemployed increased from three to seven days.

Astonishingly this nasty little move was not done to save money.  In a response to a damning report on the change by the Social Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) the DWP admitted they would be “using the savings from the waiting days change help fund the administrative costs of the broader package of initiatives.”  What they mean by these initiatives are the ever increasing range of Jobcentre harassment and workfare type schemes which are backed with punitive benefits sanctions – the other main reason people have to use food banks.  People will have to wait longer for benefits to pay to administer the sanction they get when they are finally able to claim.

Despite being stuffed with Iain Duncan Smith’s cronies, the SSAC slammed the increase in the waiting period for benefits, agreeing with charities consulted that this is likely to lead to increased food banks usage.  The  Committee said these changes should not proceed without a “robust analysis of the costs and benefits”.  The DWP claimed they have already done this and that the increased conditionality for benefits will mean everyone gets a job and that will save loads of money.  They concede the change will mean some people will suffer hardship when going through periods of ‘disruption’ but they don’t appear to really care.

As the report notes, that period of disruption could include being diagnosed with cancer.  Those with a terminal diagnosis are exempt, however not all cancer patients are eliguble for that exemption.  As a result of submissions made by healthcare charities the SSAC said there is a ‘compelling case’ that those on ESA – the out of work sickness and disability benefit – should not have to face the longer waiting period for benefits.  The DWP rejected this, saying it would create a ‘perverse incentive’ for people to claim sickness benefits rather than the dole so they could fraudulently claim four days benefit, around £40.

The SSAC also recommended that details of Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) be published on the gov.uk website.  These are the small loans that can be claimed if benefits are delayed.  As reported yesterday, the DWP have done everything they can to hide the existence of these emergency payments.  This is confirmed by the government’s response to the SSAC in which they reject this proposal saying that STBAs are not a: “separate scheme to be advertised in the way that benefits are.”  Therefore they will not, at least as of Autumn this year, be making the existence of these payments known online.

The DWP say they will publish details of the change in the waiting period for benefits on the gov.uk website, which is very big of them.  Except they haven’t done.

Last week Iain Duncan Smith was pleading to anyone who would listen that he cares about people using food banks and will be doing ‘much more’ to raise awareness of emergency loans.  But this report reveals the truth about attitudes towards claimants who are hungry whilst waiting for vital benefits.  They really could not give a fuck about people forced to depend on food banks and are determined to make the problem worse.

You can read the report and the government’s response at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-security-jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-waiting-days-amendment-regulations-2014-ssac-report

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Come And Clean Our Mansion For No Pay … Just One Of Many Exciting Opportunities On Government Job Seeking Website

ujscreenshot3A cleaning job advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website is asking potential candidates to carry out ‘volunteer shifts prior to engagement’ in breach of minimum wage laws. (H/T @AtosMiraclesfb)

The vacancy is at Thornton Manor, a stately home in Wirral which has been converted into a luxury wedding and conference centre.  According to one intrepid jobseeker who inquired about this job, potential recruits are expected to carry out a voluntary shift in case they don’t like it.  It was then admitted that actually this unpaid work is for the benefit of both parties although in some cases potential employees may not have to carry out a full shift.

This is the latest example of grasping employers using ‘try before you buy’ schemes to minimise the cost of recruitment.  Taking on staff involves a level of risk, and greedy companies are now trying to push the cost of that onto unemployed people by forcing them to work for free before they are given a proper job.  Of course starting a new job can also be risky.  There are no shortage of abusive and exploitative employers out there after all.  But there is little in place to protect unemployed people against that.

Thornton Manor are almost certainly acting unlawfully – they are not a charity and if people are expected to work then they are entitled to be paid the minimum wage.  Astonishingly however some companies running government workfare schems are openly advertising this kind of exploitation.  And it’s legal.

Those sent on unpaid work schemes by Jocentres have little or no workplace rights, including the right to a wage.  Welfare-to-work company Ixion Holdings are currently offering employers unpaid workers on Traineeships for up to six months with ‘nominal risk or cost implication’.  ixion-trybuy2

Ixion were also recently caught lying to potential employers that forced unpaid workers Community Work Placements are ‘volunteers’.  They are wrong about the time Traineeships are expected to work without pay as well.  The latest guidance states that the work experience element of a Traineeship should be 240 hours, or eight weeks.

What is taking place is a simple wealth grab from the very poorest to the rich.  Unemployed people being expected to bear the cost of risks associated with recruitment means fatter salaries for company directors.  It also means that under the cover of so-called work trials like these, unscrupulous companies can  maintain a rolling stock of free workers and never actually pay any of them.  And the DWP will cheer them on because making the life of unemployed people as miserable as possible is now far more important than helping them get jobs that pay a wage you can survive on.

Thornton Manor are on twitter @thorntonmanor and have a facebook page.

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Savage Cuts To Benefits Go Ignored In Flagship Foodbanks Report – They Really Think We Are Fucking Idiots

foodbank-sanction-graphsHuge cuts to benefits are virtually ignored in the report into foodbanks published today by an unholy trinity of opportunistic Labour hasbeens, out of touch Bishops and austerity cheering Tories.

The growth in foodbanks dates back to before the current Government weren’t elected as Labour’s decimation of the social security started to take its toll.  The rise in benefit sanctions also began in the dying years of Labour’s administration as did the introduction of the despised Atos run Work Capability Assessment, designed to strip sickness and disability benefits from one million people.  Alongside this Labour’s normalisation of workfare led to unprecedented numbers of people forced to work without pay.

And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, along came Iain Duncan Smith.  With him came the bedroom tax, council tax benefit cuts, the benefit cap, housing benefit cuts, freezes of almost all in and out of work benefits, more Atos tests for disability benefits, the scrapping of Crisis Loans and countless other measures all precision targeted at cutting the incomes of the poorest.

Yet to read today’s report into foodbanks, you would think that none of  this had ever happened. Instead it insists that the growth in people going hungry has been caused by market forces and modern economic conditions – beyond the control of us mere mortals and simply something that is here to stay no matter what we do.

It is true that alongside the slow dismantling of the welfare state, the minimum wage stagnated whilst the cost of living for the very poorest soared. The erosion of social housing meant the greedy private rental sector became out of control as competition for low cost housing became ever more intense.  As supermarket dominance grew, small local shops closed and with them out of the way food prices began to rise.  A privatised energy market did exactly what you would expect from profit hungry vultures and fleeced their most voiceless customers, often elderly or disabled people who have no choice but to try and keep the heating on.  Payday lenders and pawn shops started to appear on every high street.  In some areas wherever you look you will see companies owned by the rich dressed up in pauper’s clothing as they attempt to wring every last penny of profit they can from the poor.

All of these things are a direct result of government policies supported by all the major parties to allow the parasites of capital – landlords, supermarkets, energy companies and legal loan sharks – to run rampant in the name of the free market.

But you won’t read that in today’s report either.  Instead it proposes tinkering with the rules on prepay gas and electricity metres, vague and unspecific policies to slightly edge up the minimum wage and yet more patronising fucking garbage about cooking lessons and budgeting skills.  Meanwhile calls for benefit payments to be made quicker are redundant when the government is planning a waiting period of up to six weeks for Universal Credit.  This is not even mentioned in the report.  They are not just willfully ignoring the cuts to social security that have already happened, but also the ones that are still set to come.

The huge rise in the number of people who face benefits being stopped or sanctioned has mirrored almost exactly the growth of foodbanks.  An ever more complex and draconian system now forces unemployed, sick and disabled claimants into pointless and irksome ‘work related activity’ for days, weeks and even months on end.  Any breach of the rules means benefits are stopped.  The report endorses this increased “responsibility to look for work”, calling it a “welcome move”.

Instead it merely makes the same calls for improvements in communications with claimants and access to hardship payments that we have heard before.  These bastards really think it is okay to leave someone in desperate poverty for missing a meeting with the Jobcentre as long as you write them a nice letter explaining why.  This comes with a proposal for a condescending ‘yellow card’ warning system, which was first suggested by the Tory think tank the Policy Exchange.  You can see their thinking on this one.  Poor people like football after all, so it will be easy for our little minds to understand.

Even this comes with conditions attached.  Whilst they recommend claimants be given a warning with the chance to explain “their offence” before a sanction is applied, it suggests that this could come with an “additional requirement” to be met.  This might as well be to go outside and hop on one leg for half an hour whilst quacking like a duck for all the good most Jobcentre requirements do to help people find work.  Punishing people for their poverty is behind this idea, not helping them find jobs.

Those behind the report are adamant that nothing can be done to halt the rise in the use of foodbanks.  But abolishing benefit sanctions completely would slash the number of people going hungry in the UK overnight.  As would scrapping the bedroom tax, council tax reform and halting George Osborne’s benefit freeze.  In time honoured tradition however, politicians are clubbing together to say a functioning welfare state is over, time to move on and bring food parcels into the social security system.

That is the real reason for this report.  It wasn’t written because Frank Field and his vile Tory counterparts really give a shit about people going hungry.  Instead it is an attempt to sign off Iain Duncan Smith’s vicious reforms as part of the political landscape and move the argument on to how we can best hand out tins of Tesco value baked beans to the starving and destitute.  They will argue about that forever now.  We cannot let the bastards get away with this.  The growth of hunger in the UK did not happen by accident, it has been socially engineered.  And the people who did that are the same vermin politicians who write reports telling us how terrible and inevitable it is.

You can read the report at: http://foodpovertyinquiry.org/

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Is Boris Johnson’s Workfare Scheme The Biggest Benefit Shambles So Far?

sanction-sabs‘It was a bit strange, I had to go to a job interview the next day so they said either you cancel it, or you will be sanctioned.’
(Claimant, non-start, North London)

The DWP have repeatedly claimed that benefit sanctions are a last resort aimed at those who fail to stick to the ever more draconian rules.  Yet a damning evaluation of a workfare scheme aimed at young people in London reveals that those who had their benefit claims stopped or sanctioned for refusing to take part were more likely to find jobs than those who completed the programme.

The laboriously named Day One Support for Young People (DOSfYP) Trailblazer was cooked up by then Employment Minister Chris Grayling and London Mayor Boris Johnson as revenge for the 2011 riots.  This nasty attempt at collective punishment means that young people in many London boroughs can be sent on workfare for 13 weeks from their first day of claiming unemployment benefits.

A recently published evaluation of the Traiblazer reveals that the scheme has been an utter shambles from start to finish.  Almost half of young people sent on the programme signed off or faced sanctions rather then undertaking unpaid work with many claiming they would rather spend their time looking for a job instead.

They seem to have made the right decision.  Only around a quarter of young people who completed the scheme had found jobs by the time the evaluation was carried out compared to half of those who refused workfare.

The Trailblazer was supposed to be aimed at those aged between 18 and 25 who had little or no work experience.  The evaluation found however that 25% of people referred to the scheme reported over six months prior work history.  Some of these young people were scathing about the so-called help being inflicted on them:

“‘It didn’t help me [the placement] it didn’t give me any more experience than I already had and it just used up my time during the week when I could have been looking for work that I actually wanted to do.’
(Claimant, completer, South London)

The programme was run by the upcoming Atos replacement Maximus in north London and the Careers Development Group (CDG) in the south of the city.  These companies were supposed to provide ten hours a week ‘provider led jobsearch’ but the report finds they barely bothered.  Just over half of young people questioned said they didn’t receive any of these kind of job search sessions at all.

In encouraging news for those opposed to workfare schemes, the private sector providers reported that placements were hard to source with charities concerned about “press coverage and public perception” should they become involved with forced work. As usual the majority of placements were in charity shops.  The rushed nature of the referral process meant young people were expected to attend an interview with the provider the day after their intitial claim and start workfare the day after that.  This led to chaos with some young people turning up to their workfare placement only to be mistaken for customers with no-one knowing who they were.

Jobcentre staff also criticised the scheme, saying they were not given adequate time to explain the details of the placements in a short meeting in which they also had to process a benefit claim.  According to some of the participants they were misled by Jobcentres who implied they were being sent on a training course rather than full time workfare.  Some claimants reported being threatened with benefit sanctions due to being unable to attend an appointment the next day because they had a job interview.  Other claimants who did attend their next day appointments with the private sector providers were sent away because paperwork had not arrived.

The evaluation reveals that the vast majority of young people sent on the scheme were living in the family home which may have lessened the impact of benefits being stopped.  The report notes however that those living independently “would complete the Trailblazer regardless of whether they believed it was worthwhile and were consequently unengaged throughout the placement.”

A third of those who refused to attend forced work were sanctioned, whilst others just abandoned their benefits claim completely.  56% of those who did start dropped out before their time on the placement was completed.  Almost a third of them were sanctioned as well.  Despite this those who left early were significantly more likely to be in work at the time the evaluation was carried out – around five to seven months after the placements ended.

It is clear from this report that the young people who rejected this scheme were not workshy.  Instead they simply had a better idea of how to find work than the bungling fucking idiots in charge of the DWP.  They were even prepared to give up their benefits rather than face being ‘helped’ by the Jobcentre.  If young people’s future were not being casually destroyed by schemes like these it would be laughable. But there is nothing funny about this appalling treatment of those entering the jobs market for the first time.

You can read the report at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/378308/rr888-day-one-support-for-young-people-trailblzer.pdf

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Jobcentre Busy-Bodies To Outrank Healthcare Professionals In Treatment For Addictions

Iain_Duncan_Smith_pissedJobcentre busy-bodies could soon have the power to force people in treatment for drug or alcohol problems to take up full time ‘work related activity’ if they are unable to beat their addictions quickly enough.

The DWP has published guidance on the support (stop laughing) that will be offered to people claiming Universal Credit who have a dependency on drugs or alcohol.  Claimants will be given six months to undergo what the Jobcentre calls ‘structured treatment’ during which period they may not be required to look or prepare for work.  After this has elapsed however it will be a very diferent story.

The guidance warns that any further treatment will only be taken into account in a Claimant Comitment if Jobcentre advisors agree this if the best way for a claimant to achieve their ‘employment goals’.  This truly chilling move means that the newly named ‘work coaches’ will be able to demand someone attends workfare raher than continue with treatment for their condition.  Jobcentre staff have no adequate training to make these decisions but they will now have more power over patients than the medical professionals treating them.  It is not hard to imagine some jumped up sanction happy Jobcenre twat deciding someone who has relapsed needs a short sharp shock of forced work which they will possibly fail to attend and end up being sanctioned for.

Of course the Jobcentre cannot actually stop anyone attending treatment.  But if a counselling or support sessions happens to clash with what they’ve decided you should do that day then you may face benefits being stopped for choosing getting better over ‘work related activity’.

The good news is that Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to force people into treatment seems to have been quietly abandoned, at least officially.  The document states that: “You will not be forced by your work coach into receiving treatment.”

It does not say what will happen if you refuse treatment.  It all sounds a bit like so-called voluntary unpaid work schemes.  There is a danger that if someone doesn’t agree to go into treatment then they may end up being sent on workfare instead.

Whilst some people with dependencies can lead functional lives the stark fact is that the most chaotic drug and alcohol users are not fit for work.  And they won’t get fit for work within six months.  Some people have to wait that long to get into rehab.  Whilst the pampered rich may be able to check into a plush private clinic and then go back to their warm homes and affluent lifestyles, the poorest face long waiting lists, shit housing, and now, the likelihood of benefit sanctions.

If there were any grown ups at the DWP then they would understand that addiction is a serious and complex health problem which cannot always simply be fixed in six months.  An adequate social security system needs to accept this and not drive people into the ground if they are unable to work.  Employers are hardly rushing out to hire people with current drug and alcohol problems anyway.  There are two million people without these problems desperately looking for work after all.

But a realistic approach to how society handles addiction would not get Iain Duncan Smith any pats on the head from the Daily Mail.  So instead the Government is adopting policies based on lazy tabloid stereotypes which will do more harm than good.  And cost more money in the long run.  It’s enough to drive you to fucking drink.

You can read the guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-support-if-you-are-dependent-on-drugs-or-alcohol

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