Why did the DWP push ahead with illegal sanctions, knowing they don’t do any good?

Don't shrug your shoulders, Smith! It's time the people of the UK found a way to make him care about the deaths he is causing.

Don’t shrug your shoulders, Smith! It’s time the people of the UK found a way to make him care about the deaths he is causing.

Today’s article on the Skwawkbox blog is extremely interesting, for anyone with an interest in the public services and the welfare state.

It seems the Department for Work and Pensions has pushed ahead with a regime including the Work Programme and the sanctions imposed for those who refuse to take part, and even changed the law to reinforce its position, despite having documentary proof that is two years old, showing that these policies do more harm than good and are not in the national interest.

You can read the article here to get the full picture. The gist is that a DWP report from 2011 advised the secretary of state, Iain Duncan Smith, that these policies were a bad idea – but he went ahead with them anyway.

So the report concludes that the Work Programme, and other training programmes imposed by the DWP, cause harm by preventing people from looking for work and forcing them to attend useless training sessions (as flagged up in this Vox Political article).

It admits the policy harms people who were already involved in training or volunteer work – on their own initiative – because they had to end it to take part in ‘mandated’ training or face sanction if they declined (Cait Reilly, for a much-publicised example).

People who didn’t attend, didn’t complete or rejected a training course because it was unsuitable were still sanctioned (even though the policy states – and the government has adamantly claimed for many months – that this does not happen. Transport difficulties and childcare problems were also flagged up as potentially leading to sanctions, even though they were not the fault of the jobseeker.

The report went on to criticise the sanctions regime – because it is harmful not only to the jobseeker but to members of that person’s family and friends as well. This is because it forces them to rely on family and friends for their survival, if they are lucky enough to have such people around to help; it damages family relationships and harms the well-being of low-income families who have to stretch their resources to help a sanctioned person, including younger brothers or sisters who have to rely on the money earned by their elders for their own sustainance. In other words, not only do sanctions harm individual jobseekers, but they also harm people who have had nothing to do with the benefits being suspended. As Steve Walker writes, that is “about as unjust as you could possibly get”.

There’s more, but you should visit the article because I want to ask a few more, searching, questions.

We’ve seen that the DWP was warned against imposing Workfare onto people who were already involved in training or volunteer work that they had initiated themselves. Isn’t that exactly what happened to Cait Reilly?

Then, rather than admit its mistake, pay her back the money she had lost through sanctions and let her go back to the volunteer work that might actually help her get a long-term career, the government forced her to take the matter to a lengthy (and, one expects, expensive) judicial review to prove her case.

When Ms Reilly won at the Court of Appeal (meaning the costs had to be paid by the DWP), it meant that tens – maybe hundreds of thousands of jobseekers who had been wrongly sanctioned could claim their money back. Mr… Smith immediately told the world that he wasn’t putting up with that and, diverging even further from the path of wisdom, tabled a Parliamentary Bill to change the law, in order to keep the money he and his department had stolen – yes, I think ‘stolen’ is the appropriate word – from the many taxpayers they had wronged.

Faced with this evidence, one finds it necessary to ask: In the name of sanity, why?

Why go ahead with a policy that cannot possibly be in the national interest? It stops people getting jobs; it harms jobseekers, their families and friends; it drives them to despair.

It drives them to despair.

Another recent article came our way via Facebook, and relates to the Suicide Act, 1961. It draws attention to the fact that the DWP and the wider UK government has been told, repeatedly and at length, that its policies are leading to suicides. The article itself refers to the many deaths we know take place every week because of the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, but it is also known that jobseeker suicides rise by around 10 per cent during times of high unemployment and the figures should be available to support a contention that this is taking place now.

The article goes on to say that continuing to authorise procedures that are known to end in suicide – as Iain Duncan Smith and his various lieutenants, Mark Hoban, Esther McVey, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, have done – may therefore be viewed as procuring suicide from the disabled and otherwise disadvantaged population of the UK.

This is a criminal offence under the Suicide Act, 1961.

So it seems we have a government that has ignored the advice of its own reports in order to pursue a course of criminality that has led (as we all know) to many thousands of deaths.

Does anybody feel like calling the police?

56 thoughts on “Why did the DWP push ahead with illegal sanctions, knowing they don’t do any good?

  1. skwalker1964

    Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:
    Brilliant article by Mike Sivier that references my latest blog on the DWP ignoring its own advice and massively increasing sanctions even though it knows they are harmful and counterproductive – but which adds some great context of wider issues and quite possibly criminality on the part of Iain (Duncan) Smith and his Department of Work and Pensions.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Cheers, Steve. This is why I didn’t reblog your article straight away – it brought the other references to my mind immediately and I wanted to draw the strands together and bring them into the public debate. I’m glad you approve!

  2. valerie

    theres an e-mail address on uk civilobdience page, where you can e-mail the police ccp, to demand action be taken against them, its even got a letter you can cpoy and paste into the e-mail, which i and some others have done,

    1. Mike Sivier

      Yes, this is what I referenced in the article. Trouble is, it asks you to send to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which only deals with complaints about the police. It really needs to go to the Metropolitan Police, in my opinion.

  3. No job, no benefits, no income for a whole year. Thanks, Cleggy.

    Does anybody feel like calling the police will help at all?
    Seriously, under a regime which takes away homeless peoples’ sleeping bags because they make the place look untidy?
    Still, go ahead, my deep cynicism may be misplaced.

  4. Johnny

    IDS is probably taking kickbacks from the grant-farmers who take the Government contracts to do the administration of the workfare schemes – it’s done by the likes of A4e, not the DWP.

    1. 2013rco

      and A4E are totally corrupt…. thats why the FSA use them and pay them a fortune to give advise under the Money Advise service whilst putting older IFA’s out of Business under Retail Distribution Review … A4E advisers are also not qualified to give advise and MAS says they only give Generic (none advise) funded by Government…. another lie it is funded by the Industry. All the information is in the public domain. A4e were advertising the jobs last year on their website.

    1. Paula Welsh

      Hi guys,

      Yes I think that they should stop universal jobmatch because I think that it is unfair especially for people who are on courses of education because it uses up a lot of time. Time to do their courses which will in turn cause people to either give their courses up which are designed to get them into decent jobs. This will in turn cause unemployment in the long term because people will not have the skills to take a job, therefore I am delighted to sign this petition. Also someone should set up a petition to stop sanctions as they are still being implemented at DWP. My son has had his money stopped and they will not disclose why they have done this, maybe they just saw him coming?

      Kind Regards

      Paula Welsh

  5. Larry Loxton

    This is also Democide under the International Law of Human rights and those who are responsible should be charged and given a LIFE sentence for Each of the claimant’s that their policies’ have made their contractor Atos deem fit for work .This Fascism must be perused and stopped.

    1. Larry Loxton

      Atos must be and ant other company involved are also guilty and should loose all contracts even in other areas & bought before the international courts where they should be ordered to expose all the hidden agendas that their employers enforced regardless of documented or not .Employees should have their signing of the official secrets act dismissed and asked to present evidence of their true training , requirements and quota expectations with amnesty from prosecution offered to those who blow the whistle on those who forced the inhumane and cruel treatment on the vulnerable sick and disabled .As a Nation we fought Fascism before and must nip it in the bud again every time it shows it ugly face again.

    2. Paula Welsh


      I absolutely agree that it is fascism. But it goes without saying that the perpetrators must be nasty enough to do this to people knowing what it will cause. They should lock them all up for their crimes,

      Kind regards

      Paula Welsh

  6. murray

    Anyone with half a brain knows exactly what the agenda is,as for holding them to account, although is a very good idea, will just never happen, because they will just change the law to suit their own needs.

  7. garry

    Emailing or trying to get the police involved is as much use as a chocolate teapot, we all know they take orders from govt, or that govt change the laws to get around being prosecuted etc etc. The only way you will get action now is to take proactive steps to remove the govt rather than wait 5-10 years for any protests to have a real effect.

  8. RL

    Why did they push ahead despite knowing they would do harm?

    Because IDSS actually WANTS to do harm. He’s a very sick individual.

    There can be no other answer, when all the evidence points against doing something, he goes ahead despite the harm, hardship, even deaths that it causes.

    He’s currently saying he wants to give up even MORE of the welfare budget in the next spending review, while all the other cabinet ministers are fighting to keep their departmental budgets.

    What does that tell you?

    That he’s an insane gobshite, increasingly dangerous to the country, and to his immediate staff. He could go off at any moment!

    1. Workhouse

      In the world of George Smifff ( he is definately a three f Smifff), harm, hardship, even deaths, prove that his tough measures are working. As to the idea that he will cut 3 billion more from the welfare budget, that will largely be realised by simply denying people the basic amount on which to live. Then they die so are counted as having found employment, more proof that Smifff’s measures are working! After all if an insane gobshite like Smifff can have a well paid job, why cannot we. It is clearly a life style choice to be be unemployed and not an insane, psychopathic, piece of detritus, like the narcissistic Smifff. If we were all evil I feel sure this government could find a job for us. Ministry of Justus perhaps.

  9. Big Bill

    Perhaps the aim is to defer many benefit claims till after the next election which they expect to lose. Someone getting a three year sanction now can’t sign on till Labour are (probably) back in power and the subsequent sudden rise in claimants can be useful as political ammunition against them.

  10. Raymond Northgreaves

    Why did the Department for Work and Pensions push ahead with illegal sanctions, and why are the Courts of Arbitration supporting the illegal decisions that have been made by Atos, GCP, and DWP?

    1. Mike Sivier

      The courts aren’t supporting these decisions, though, are they? Certainly not in the case of the DWP. Atos loses 40 per cent of all its appeals – more than 90 per cent of the appellant has taken legal advice.
      What’s a GCP?

  11. Frank Psychosis

    I said it before, and I’m glad other people are saying it too now. The unstated intention of many Tory policies is to cause harm..and then try and hide the effects of that harm on people with a campaign of smears, lies and negative propaganda. None of what they are doing with welfare and benefits has any thing to do with ‘reforms’ or ‘savings’ at all, and everything to do with shaming, stigmatizing and harming. Its part of a wider Tory policy to dismantle and end the concept itself; that the state has any responsibility to provide, or protect it’s own citizens with the provision of social programs. They’re not reforming anything, they’re abolishing them. Enclosure MkII if you like.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Enclosure Mk II – very interesting point there!
      If any readers don’t know what Enclosure was, in British history, then you really need to look it up.

    1. Marie Up North

      slightly off topic:

      I find it very intersting that Atos also run the IT systems for the BBC and the BBC website, as well as having a £70 million contract with the Welsh Government to provide Information and Communications Technology services and a £25m contract with the Ministry of Defence to provide defence communications services.

      Makes me wonder how many MPs (and others in positions of power, wealth and influence) have a finger of vested interest in Atos’s many plump pies?

  12. Mark Smith

    Watching a film about the Nuremberg Trials on the tv the other night. One of the chief interrogators of the Nazis was asked why he thought those on trial did what they did. He speculated that true evil was the absence of empathy. Those that Govern us now had such feelings beaten out of them at Eton and suchlike and their appetite for wealth and power was fed and nurtured. They are Nazis and they should be held account for their crimes.

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  14. Mr No


    Good article, very true.

    I suffered at the hands of the work programme and the governments draconian policies. I was recently sanctioned for over 7 months in total. Unjustly! 2 of the 3 sanctions were invalid, they were upheld when they should not have been. Hey, no surprise there. Even the tribunal judge agreed with many of my points, then a letter arrives saying it’s now frozen.

    Held up whilst the dwp use this Reilly case to try and wriggle out of any and all work programme sanctions before the regime recently changed. Although thankfully it it states that i have a right to appeal should i feel that my case falls outside of this.

    Just because it’s a sanction that was given whilst on the work programme it doesn’t mean that the reasons Miss Reilly went to court apply to me. Therefore i am most strongly contesting their decision and if I can indeed ‘persuade’ the tribunal of this then I intend to give it my best shot. I should not have been sanctioned for my first ever offence, I have the proof.
    The judge that subsequently looked at my case and decided it ‘may’ be affected by this case should have looked a little closer!

    I am not letting it drop. Many will probably give up due to the stress and convoluted nature of this whole messed up situation.
    I am strong, but the stress is rather difficult to deal with at times.
    Family and friends indeed do feel it when one of their loved ones go through something like this. But I am lucky compared to many, hence i will be pursuing this matter. It’s a shame that the free legal advice out there is so diluted and that many of us are probably as capable of dealing with this as the average legal worker.

    And now I am back in the clutches of the programme my new adviser is also a psychopath and just the other day tried to blackmail me into surrendering documents using travel expenses as a bargaining chip.
    I left the premises with my fares and yet another spurious doubt raised.

    Fun, fun, fun. Not long to go now and then perhaps without the profit driven psychopaths I might be able to look for work without being quite so stressed out all the time.

    Stay strong people.

  15. sibrydionmawr

    What this regime is doing it certainly criminal, and as one poster has pointed out, the Tories generally speaking, lack empathy. That is certainly true of IDS, Osborne, Freud and Hoban.

    Petitions and attempts to use the criminal law certainly won’t do any harm, but they actually to my mind dissipate energy, and sadly many who particpate in these activites, doubtless in good faith, will convince themselves that these actvities are in themselves enough. Criminal charges are for when we have won the day. Blogging and commenting on blogs is actually a more effective use of one’s energy, as at the very least it is reaching out and making connections, and whilst it does need to be critical quite often, criticism can be most usefully of the constructive variety.

    However, actions always speak louder than words, and I have commented elsewhere about the idea of holding vigils. Someone commenting on a blog also pointed out the need for all the single issue causes to become one, united cause, which is something I agree with entirely.

    Not so very long ago there was a very nasty regime in one of the Germanies that once existed, and given the freedom from the threat of inavsion by the Soviet army decided to start a protest movement. At first it was very localised, and restricted to one church in Leipzig, candle-light vigils were the preferred form of protest.

    This kind of seemingly innocuous protest is actually one of the most powerful forms of protest going, as it is a protest entriely devoid of any suggestion of violence.

    Gradually over a relatively short period of time the peaceful protests grew, and grew, and became unstoppable, and before long not only had the government gone. but the whole regime went too – and it all started with candle-light vigils.

    We face a remarkably similar situation, it may not seem that way at a cursory glance, but think about it, mass surveillance, all sorts of nasty sanctions for not conforming, increasing unwarranted intrusion by the state into our private lives all in the interests of ‘national security’ ( a euphemism for the security of the ruling class and their capitalist mates).

    A vigil is in fact the kind of protest that the ‘respectable’ can be drawn into, including those poor deluded souls whose world view is informed by the likes the Daily Mail, once they discover that the protestors are actually decent people, with decent values, who only wish to maintain those values of decency. For this to happen, there needs to be face to face contact in a non-threatening environment where people can talk and discuss and debunk the regime and it’s stooges. So this is a place that should be free of the usual plague of newspaper sellers from certain political religious cults. And though ostensibly we are ‘free’ of the political restrictions that were in place in the GDR, (at least in theory) freedom by itself doesn’t pay for the groceries, or put a roof over our heads, and freedom is worthless if you are dead. Paradoxically, ordinary East German citizens were free from the very scourges we face, those of going hungry and being homeless and without access to adequate healthcare.

    This isn’t to suggest that the GDR communist regime was in any way nice, but it has to be said that at least the had the wit to understand that there had to be a quid pro quo when you want to enforce a draconian regime on people, and from bitter experience (1953) they knew that unless you guranteed a basic standard of living, they would have trouble, and in 1953 it was only the Soviet tanks that saved that regime.

    At least have the UK government doesn’t the backing of Soviet tanks, (and even the possibility of US tanks seems quite absurd) and I think even the ConDems would think twice before sending British tanks in, (though action of that nature might stir whatever little conscience the Labour Party has left). We know that doing nothing isn’t an option. Sporadic strikes, protests etc, aren’t going to acheive much, petitons will be ignored, but silent, candle lit vigils regualrly held, perhaps at first as ‘single issue’ protests could very easily morph into something much broader. Perhaps holding vigils for those who have died as a result of these terrible reforms would be a good place to start.

    It’s time to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ And not only must we rid ourselves of this obnoxious government, we must also put Labour on warning that we’ll take none of their crap either, as they are likely to form the next government, unless we decide to do away with that useless institution altogether.

    I’m going to seriously follow up on this idea, and I shall be bending the ears of those around me about it, and also making connections in places where there are people of influence.

    I’ll come back and post about it if it happens – and I think it will.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Vigils aren’t a bad idea in terms of publicity – at the very least the local press might publicise them. Good luck with it!
      I do think that the criminal cases are worthwhile, though.

  16. sibrydionmawr

    Almost forgot, great post Mike, even though I do sometimes think you’re a little too blind to Labour’s collusion in all this.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’m not blind to what Labour is doing. Much of it dismays me, the longer this wretched Coalition goes on and the more often Labour seems to be helping it out.

  17. Thomas M

    This Coalition is like a cancer, digesting the country from within. I’d join in a vigil if I could get to it-I can’t drive and can only use public transport one way.

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  19. paul

    I turned up 20 minutes late fore some waste of time assessment morning I was late because the adviser did not know where the place was but I know have had my money stopped fore turning up 20 minutes late

  20. Chris Dave Hall

    I was sanctioned for 4 weeks for failing to engage, they sent me to a job where there was no way of me getting there at 4am, no public transport and 20 miles away, they DM me first… they knew i don’t own a car yet still did it, trick.
    they also mis-sold the job to me, telling me it was full time – it wasn’t.

  21. Anonymous

    Whilst it is wrong to go around labelling people, it is clear that Ian Duncan Smith has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He is a ‘career criminal’. He should be made to take the Dr Robert Hare ‘Psychopath’ test, as should David Cameron! These types have no conscience and zero empathy! They feel ‘superior’ and ‘entitled’ to mistreat others as they see fit. Even when confronted with proof and evidence to the contrary (such as thousands are dying due to their unfair (and illegal) policies) they will simply deny it. Continue to criticise their ‘superiority’ (they will see it as a personal attack) and they will become even more vindictive. They understand right from wrong, truth from lie – yet they simply do not care! They are pathological liars, highly manipulative and without conscience. They will NEVER change themselves since they do not feel they need to change. Unfortunately, they are ‘legally insane’! We should be demanding that David Cameron calls for a general election. Now.

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  23. keith lawrence

    JSA is awarded with a letter stating that this is the money needed to live. As looking for a job is costly, and money is not provided for this, (because we r only provided money on which to live, not look for work), surely the jobcentre have to start supplying the transport and materials needed to job hunt, (laptop, phone credit, etc).
    Also i am NFA, and my local jobcentre insists that i fill out a form stating where i slept for the last 3 nights prior to signing on. is this not discrimination? as those who have addresses are not required to state where they slept 3 nights prior to signing on.

    1. Big Bill

      I believe they are. If you stay away from home overnight you’re supposed to tell the DWP about it.

  24. Sam Dunbar

    well said keith ,now my case im nearly 62 and still getting push from pillar to post doing what ever the force me to do now i already do voluntary work by choice so with this workfare rubbish i could get took out of some where wheres ive worked for three years and dumped some where i dont like, is this government capable of having any sense or are they just all bloody halfwits ,big bill not sure if your right or wrong but im dammed im going anywhere over night id tell them think that comes under invasion of privacy ,i just dont know why they just dont tag the unemployed were not suppose to have a life according to them anyway shower of bloody arseholes im glad ill get my pension credits next year and i can tell them what i really bloody think of them

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  26. suicidal

    on thevergeofsuicidle thoughtsas i have had callssaying one day my benifits was back on then the next day call off council tax saying dwp have suspendedall my payments calls dwp and for some reason cant find my file gets a letter off dla one week saying i was ntitled to full payment wat i wasallready in recibt then exactly one week later with my illness being worse stopped it all how and why am i being treated in such a way i am about to do myself in they do not realise its vunerable peoples lives they juggling with if i make it to see the out come of this f@@ked up desision and inhumainly treated by another human body on the end of the fone called D W P …..

  27. graham1963

    I’ve took 2 weeks out doing a course that children would snigger at as being stupid.
    Now been sanctioned for 2 weeks money cause 1 week was short of applications, the jobsworth advisor knows I have 5 kids and was a real smart arse and very cheeky.
    I am under doctor for depression for a number of years, made worse when assaulted while bus driving and now scared on the forehead for life.
    One lady in this town of peterborough jumped off a car park to her death due to sanctions and one lady gassed herself. I feel like going on a shooting spree in the job centre. Hate life and this government.

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