Tag Archives: Dispatches

Don’t Believe The Hype: Universal Credit Is No Closer To Being Workable Than It Was In 2010

Universal-credit-nudgeJobcentres sources are suggesting that Iain Ducan Smith will attempt to roll out Universal Credit across the country in February 2015.  This will allow the Tories to pretend that the project is on track and functioning in the run up to the general election.

Don’t believe a word of it.  This is Iain Duncan Smith’s biggest benefit fraud yet.  The truth is that Universal Credit looks no closer to being a functional and scalable system than it did when the Secretary of State first scribbled down plans for wide-ranging reform of the benefits system on the back of an evelope in 2010.

Universal Credit will only be inflicted on new, single claimants on the  unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance.  This has already been the case in the pilot schemes for the new benefit, and represents the simplest, and easiest to process claims.  As reported by Channel 4’s Dispataches last night, should the circumstances of these claims change, such as someone moving in with a partner or starting part time work, then the system collapses into chaos.

Equally importantly is that a DWP insider says that behind the scenes local authorities are still administering much of the housing element of Universal Credit.  Whilst payments will come from the DWP, claimants are referred to their local council if they have any queries about their claim.  This is the replacement for Housing Benefit and by far the most complicated part of any claim – requiring large amounts of evidence and specialist local knowledge of housing markets.  How the DWP will eventually absorb this knowledge is anybody’s guess.  Meanwhile those who need help with mortgage interest payments instead of rents will not yet be eligible for Universal Credit and will remain on the current system.  As will people living in supported or temporary accommodation.

You do not need a fancy fucking computer system to pay everyone £72.40 a week – the current rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance for those over 25.  And that’s all that appears to be happening for new Universl Credit claimants.  All Iain Duncan Smith has achieved in four years of bungling the introduction of Universal Credit is to design a clunky online form to pay the most simple form of out of work benefit at the same rate it is paid now.  Or in the words of a DWP source: it’s still exactly the same just under a different name.

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The Baseless Smears and Vile Propaganda of Channel 4’s Dispatches

Yesterday’s Dispatches documentary turned out to be both an attack claimants and Jobcentre staff with little provided in the name of balanced journalism.  Along with embarrassing attempts to prove how easy it is to ‘beat’ the system, the programme also revealed the stunning revelation that Jobcentre’s are a bit shit when it comes to actually finding people a job.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s claimed benefits over the last few decades although it is apparently big news to the latte slurping Tarquins at Channel 4, most of whom have probably never done a real job in their lives.

The first half of the programme included the laughable paint sting, in which a man with paint on his clothes went to sign on and, in Dispatches’ view, was not adequately interrogated about why he had paint on his clothes.

This followed the intrepid documentary team inserting a line of text into someones CV which wasn’t immediately spotted by Jobcentre staff and the outrageous scandal of someone not filling in their job seeking activity record properly.

The rest of the programme was largely devoted to publicly humiliating a Jobcentre Plus manager who seemed to have little idea of what is actually going on at the front line in Jobcentres.   Channel 4’s sleuthing will however have come as little surprise to Jobcentre staff, who yesterday were on strike over oppressive working conditions and unrealistic target setting.

Whilst the programme heavily featured the Jobcentre’s inability to provide claimants with decent CVs, it completely overlooked the companies involved in the £5 billion Work Programme, who’s job it is to actually help people find work.

Despite the Work Programme proving to be a hugely expensive failure, with job outcome rates currently less than would be expected if claimants were left to their own devices to find work, this very real scandal was completely ignored by the programme.  As was the fact that half a million benefit sanctions were handed out by Jobcentres last year for precisely the kind of breaches of job seeking activity that the programme attempted to reveal is widespread and unchecked.

The views of Jobcentre staff, under increasing pressure to harass and sanction claimant’s were completely ignored.  The PCS Union, who have long complained about the horrendous pressure their members are under to strip claimants of benefit, were also not given any space to air their views.

The whole dire affair appeared to be laying the ground for privatisation of benefit services, with a handful of recruitment sector spivs brought in to show how much better they would be at the job.  What the programme didn’t say is that Jobcentre staff deal with hundreds of claimants a day unlike the cosy one to one sessions that the private sector pretended they would offer.

The blame for the shambles at the Jobcentre lies directly Government Ministers like Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling.  Shamefully they got off scott free in the documentary which instead preferred to blame claimants and front line workers for the problems caused by this Government.

The PCS Union and their members deserve full support in their struggle to end the culture of harassment of both benefit claimants and Jobcentre staff at the DWP.  It is true that not everyone has a great experience at the Jobcentre, which all too often resembles an organisation tasked with policing and sanctioning claimants rather than actually supporting them into work.  But it is equally true that this is not the fault of front line workers, a significant number of whom have previously been claimants themselves.

Whilst the DWP have pretended to be upset at Channel 4’s desperate attempt at muck raking, the likes of A4e and G4s will once again be laughing all the way to the bank as they eye yet more lucrative Government contracts.  The entire Dispatches team should hang their heads in shame for producing such shoddy sensationalist garbage which will no doubt result in yet more baseless abuse aimed at both unemployed people and public sector workers.

Channel 4 are today boasting that 2 million people watched the programme, which was endlessly trailed before the show with lurid trailers featuring the ‘tricks of the benefit cheats’.  In contrast last week’s documentary on the brutal health assessments sick and disabled claimants face, which have driven people to suicide, was buried in the middle of the Olympics with no such extensive pre-publicity.  Channel 4 have shown quite clearly whose side they are on, and it ain’t ours.

Dispatching Dispatches: Channel 4 Join the Benefit Bashers

Channel 4’s Dispatches is set to follow the recent documentary exposing the casual brutality of the current assessment process for sickness and disability benefits with some good old fashioned benefit bashing propaganda.

Monday night will see the Dispatches series examining the ruthless criminals who occasionally may fib to the Jobcentre about their job seeing activity.

No doubt media luvvies at Channel 4 believe that this will demonstrate some sort of balance after their recent condemnation of the Work Capability Assessment.  It shows just how far the demonisation of claimants has come when someone telling a fib on their Job Seeker’s Agreement is now judged to be a similar moral crime to the increasing number of sick and disabled claimants driven to suicide by the harsh reality of the benefits system.

It’s perhaps unfair to judge the programme until it has been screened, but the trailers currently advertised on Channel 4’s website don’t look good.  Entitled ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats‘, the programme will reveal the “the shirkers’ tricks that make it easy to cheat the system.

With around half a million benefit sanctions handed out last year it is unclear exactly how easy it is to trick the system, but no doubt Channel 4 will enlighten us with a series of cunning stings on Jobcentre staff.  One clip released shows how they cleverly dress someone in paint covered overalls and then send them to sign on.

This is an attempt to demonstrate how someone who is obviously working can sign on without adequate checks from Jobcentre staff.  Viewers are forewarned that crafty claimants who have paint on their clothes when they go to sign on often claim they have been painting when questioned.  As it turns out this is exactly what happens to their undercover sleuth, who is asked why he is covered in paint only to tell them he has been painting.  Channel 4 presumably expected a benefit fraud SWAT team to immediately leap on the man and haul him into the courts to explain why he had paint on his clothes.  Instead benefit office staff, not being psychic and too lazy to follow him home, simply believed him.

It remains to be seen whether Channel 4 will tell the stories of the people plunged into poverty and homelessness due to sanctions, the single mothers interrogated about their sex lives by pervy government busy bodies or the thousands of malicious and untrue calls to the Benefit Fraud Hotline.

Instead it seems a few lame tricks – when Jobcentre staff haven’t fully checked details on the reams of utterly pointless information claimants are expected to produce – are to be presented as evidence of how easy it is to cheat the system.

It is not known how many people are actively avoiding work whilst claiming Job Seekers Allowance, but it isn’t that many.  The number of people unemployed for over two years is 440,000 and not all of these people will be on benefits.  Of those who are the vast majority will be actively seeking work.

Some sadly may be unsuccessful.  Lots of long term unemployed people are nearing retirement age.  Some are homeless, have physical or mental health conditions or criminal records.  Many will have children and be attempting to find jobs that can fit in with school hours and term times.  The enduring myth of millions of feckless spongers just doesn’t stack up when you look at the figures.

It could even be argued that the workshy, in times of high unemployment, are actually doing those who want to work a favour.  If some people can withstand the poverty of existence on Job Seekers Allowance then a sane society might say, with not enough jobs to go round anyway, let them get on with it.    The simple fact is that the vast majority do not choose a life on benefits which increasingly barely cover the cost of even the most basic survival.  If capitalism is so fucking great then what’s wrong with an opt out for people who can’t, or even won’t, join the great rat race.

Increasingly almost as much is spent on harassing the tiny number of alleged workshy as is spent on paying out their benefits.  Right wingers would have us believe that if this harassment stopped, even for a second, then the entire working class would immediately nail themselves to the sofa to watch endless Jeremy Kyle repeats.  The truth is that most people want to work, even if the current failing system doesn’t want to employ them.

The days of an easy life on benefits are long gone, despite whatever nonsense Dispatches have managed to cobble together.  Benefit levels are now so low that few would choose the miserable subsistence life that they just about pay for.  The vast majority of claimants are victims of casualisation, forced in and out of temporary and part time employment usually at the minimum wage, or increasingly workfare.

Tens of thousands of people are now working for free, sometimes for multi-national companies.  Those on the minimum wage are forced to rely on in-work benefits to simply keep a roof over their heads.  Long term unemployment continues to rise despite the hundreds of millions handed out by Chris Grayling to welfare to work parasites like A4e.  Any notion of job security has all but disappeared, whilst cuts to further education have killed any illusion of social mobility.  Capitalism has created an economic underclass that is devastating the potential of millions of lives.  We are simply now only judged on how much money we can make for the rich and we have colluded in attacking each other instead of aiming our guns squarely in the faces of the bastards living lives of luxury on the back of this shit.

So Channel 4 found a few people who didn’t apply for as many jobs (that they probably won’t get) as they were supposed to as part of their Job Seekers Agreement.  Well big fucking deal.  What next, a gritty expose of how many people sometimes take their library books back a bit late?

Tricks of the Dole Cheats will be shown on Monday 13th August on Channel 4 at 8pm. In what appears to be a crude taunt by overpaid media twats aimed at the unemployed, they will be tweeting using the hashtag #hownottogetajob

Combat Channel 4 Dispatches ‘Tricks of the Dole Cheats’