Staff working for welfare to work companies are being advised to threaten benefit claimants with a sanction if they are unable to attend work related activity due to an emergency hospital appointment.
The above paragraph comes from the guidance handed out by the Department of Work and Pensions to the companies running the Work Programme* instructing them when to refer claimants for a benefit sanction. According to the department, it may be possible for a claimant to re-arrange mandated activity without facing a sanction, however it warns: “not taking compliance doubt action and allowing a participant to arrange an alternative appointment on a number of occasions weakens the link between cause and consequence.”
It then goes on to say that even if the claimant has an emergency hospital appointment, staff should process a sanction if they have ‘any doubt’. Whether this means doubt over whether the appointment is genuine, or doubt over whether somebody arranged a medical emergency to get out of workfare is unclear.
According to te DWP sanctions should only be handed out if a claimant has previously given the same, or similar reasons for re-arranging mandated activity. But chillingly, these rules are not just aimed at people who are unemployed, but also sick and disabled claimants in the Work Related Activity Group – exactly the type of people who might have a lot of hospital appointments.
Welfare-to-work companies do not make the final decision on sanctions – that responsibility lies with the DWP. If evidence of a medical appointment can be provided by a claimant to the Jobcentre then it is almost certain no sanction would be imposed. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that welfare-to-work dickheads are now being given a green light to threaten people with benefit sanctions if they are unable to attend mandated activity due to health reasons or other emergencies. And where it counts, on the front line, that will mean scared claimants missing medical treatment so they can go and work for no pay in the local Salvation Army fucking charity shop.
*This guidance only applies to claimants on Universal Credit who have been referred to the Work Programme, which is currently probably about six people.
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