DWP brings in ‘hit squad’ as benefit sanctions rocket

Mark Hoban: He talks a lot of nonsense about work schemes.

Mark Hoban: He talks a lot of nonsense about work schemes.

The government has announced that people who come off the Work Programme will be “targeted” by a “hit squad”.

A press release from the Department for Work and Pensions says up to five “specialist advisers” will be based in individual Job Centres, and will be dedicated to “working with” people who haven’t found sustained work after two years on the Work Programme.

In other words, these people will be overworked because the government’s own figures show that the Work Programme achieves worse results than if the DWP had done nothing and let people find jobs on their own!

But don’t worry – in order to remedy the failure of its own system, the government is already punishing far more jobseekers than every before with the most extreme benefit sanctions possible! Yes indeed – in the year to October 2012, the total number of sanctions applied increased by more than 47 per cent, to a record 778,000!

That’s right. The DWP has punished more than three-quarters of a million jobseekers for its own failure to deliver a decent system to get them into work. Does that seem fair to you?

Those are the most recent (official) figures available from the DWP. It seems new figures were due last month but have been delayed indefinitely by the department. One has to wonder whether the total for the year to May 2013 has actually topped the one million mark – that would mean one-sixtieth of the population were deprived of the funds they need to live, and we already know that sanctions do not only harm individual jobseekers but also people who have had nothing to do with the benefits being suspended.

They force people to rely on family and friends for their survival; they damage family relationships and harm 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.

I love the quotes from Mark Hoban on the government press release. Try this one: “The Work Programme is getting some of the hardest to help claimants into work despite a tough economic climate.” A lie. Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee reported less than two weeks ago that “the hardest to help jobseekers remain at risk of being ‘parked’—given little or no support by providers who assess them as being unlikely to find sustained work”.

Or this: “We’ll be stepping up the pressure on claimants, who will be expected to attend the Jobcentre more frequently, with rigorous monitoring to ensure that they are doing everything they can to find work.” In other words, Job Centre staff will do everything they can to get in the way. It’s only a few days since another fellow blogger reported on her own experience of being sanctioned by her local Job Centre, after she found work.

The dialogue in that article is so hilarious it bears repeating here:

“Why did you fail to sign in on Monday?”

“Because I was at training for my job.”

“Well why didn’t you sign in on Tuesday?”

“Because I was at work.”

“Why did you fail to look for jobs in the last two weeks?”

“I didn’t. I applied for around 20 jobs in the last two weeks.”

“But why did you fail to apply for any jobs since last week?”

“Because I got a job.”

Anyone failing to comply with the – I suppose it amounts to – harassment announced in the press release will face sanctions, including a three-year benefit ban for the worst offenders – anybody who repeatedly fails to comply. In practice, this could mean not applying for a particular job, or arriving at the Job Centre a few minutes late.

It’s only towards the end of the government press release that we find the real reason for all this fanfare: “An extra £30m will be available to pay for extra training and specialist help to prepare them for work.”

Riiiiight. It’s another bung for the ministers’ friends in the Work Programme Provider companies.

That explains it.

23 thoughts on “DWP brings in ‘hit squad’ as benefit sanctions rocket

  1. spodzone

    Life was quite bad enough when I was on the dole for 6 months back in 1996/97, with the Job Centre trying to give me petty-minded grief for showing up on a morning rather than in an afternoon – the reason being it was more efficient to catch a bus in the morning, go spend the day in the Uni computer labs hunting jobs and come back later on. No prizes for guessing which strategy worked. I see nothing’s improved since then :/

  2. Jane powers

    I know several people who recently found wrk after being out of work…not one single person did it via or with any help at all from the dwp etc. …..in fact I know at least one person who has lost the chance of a job through the beurocratic farce of the dwp! I total Agee with trying to roust the intended jobless and such like ( I seriously doubt there are massive numbers of them though) but if there aren’t enough jobs for folks that do want the ,then starving folks isn’t going to provide work. Sack atos and put the money into small business,new business or lowering fuel costs to sustain business!

  3. Jean

    Could not agree with you more my son in law along with 600. Opencast employers turned up for work told finished no pay nothing he send 100’s of cv’s out every day finally gets a trial yes trial in a small meat factory financial not really better of but a man who wants to work. 4 weeks and got further himself than DWP did

  4. chris

    my daughter in law went to sign on at the benefit office she is 20 yrs old and not been on benefits before so its all new to her she was asked to sign this piece of paper and that piece of paper i know she should have looked what was written on them but it wouldnt hurt the advisor to explain what you are signing for when she went back two weeks later to sign on they told her she had missed her appointment she said what appointment they said to see your advisor she had not been given any appointment so telling the advisor this the advisor showed her one of the papers she signed it was to say the advisor had informed her and gave her an appointment to come back she never recieved that appointment when she got back in the car she put all her bits of paper in the glove compartment there was definately no appointment there so she has had her benefit stopped for 4 weeks this is definatey a scam so please read everything you are signing for at the jobcenter because they have targets to reach on how many sanctions they make, the way the system is run is an absolute disscrace where is this money going we get charged taxes to support people on the benefit system and they are not getting what we are paying for so where is the money going do we get a tax cut with all the amazing savings they are making

  5. Groc

    It’s the pretty-mindedness, the vindictiveness and the sheer cluelessness of the whole system that depresses me. It’s as if Iain Duncan Smith’s whole dysfunctional sociopathological personality has infested a whole government department it’s a pity we can’t all marry a heiress to live off like he did to escape it.

  6. casalealex

    definition of “hit squad” : 1. A squad or team of hired executioners, as one organized for carrying out a political assassination.
    2. A group of political terrorists.

  7. Squiggles

    I had a friend who rang up the jobcentre to say that she wouldn’t be able to come in because she was attending a job interview, and the interview people wouldn’t rearrange her interview time. They said that if she didn’t come in she would lost her money for the next few weeks. So she cancelled the interview. Ultimately the money was more important than attending an interview which might not have ended in a job or not. I can think that many people may have been in the same situation.

    Do they want people to find work or not??? If the end goal is employment why punish someone who actually has a job interview? It completely baffles me.

  8. guy fawkes

    Dennis Clapham I am pleased you called our economy a dead duck economy and no amount of government expenditure by any of the parties will make our country more or as competitive as a third world country – try telling the economists that.

  9. sparaszczukster

    The Coalition never mention the other benefit system which rewards multinationals with tax subsidies, bails out failing banks, pays out huge amounts to the royals and so on. They never sanctioned MPs who made fraudulent expenses claims (and some continue to do so). These are the real scroungers of society who have been bleeding us dry for decades but they get honours while we get poverty.There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind any more that this is class warfare. Its disgusting. Keep up the good work of exposing this, Mike.

  10. Anthony Spencer

    My Brother in law has worked for himself over the last ten years but then started having mental problems which after a lot of hard work by myself and his sister we managed to sort out ie bank problems and creditors however he remains a constant worry because he is suicidal.Everything seemed to be going along ok until the dreaded ATOS letter came.I went with him for moral support and because he has problems interacting with people on a face to face basis.I told them he was suicidal and was told this would all be put into the report.You ever get one of those feelings that whatever you say is being ignored?The upshot of this is his benefits which he’d only just started to recieve after waiting two months were immediately stopped.He was told he would have to go on JSA and he would have to attend more interviews for an assesment.As I write this my brother in law is like a virtual recluse in his room where he stays after stopping his medication for depression and he is even more suicidal.I can give them an assesment of the poor sod “He like many others needs help but I’m afraid it may be too late before he recieves it”

  11. argotina1

    My lodger was removed from Disability benefits and moved to ‘job seekers allowance’. He has a lung disease. He had an emergency admission to hospital (coughing up blood) and so missed signing on. He informed the Jobcentre by phone, and once out of hospital went to tell them face to face, and was told there was no problem. The following week the brown letter arrived – he had been sanctioned for not signing on, no unemployment benefit for 8 weeks. Next brown envelope, a few days later, housing benefit stopped. When he complained it was eventually sorted out, and backdated, but I suppose that he now has 2 sanctions on his record (the second for arriving 10 mins late for an appointment at the job centre)

  12. jray

    Went to the JCP today and asked,as I am about to leave the WP can I talk to “The Hit Squad?” ????? You know the specialist staff that offer training and intensive help for those leaving the WP…Oh,we no longer do that as we are under staffed and the flow off the WP was not expected..No training? No..No Work placement?…No..What do I do,Job search?…No,we do not have the facilities…So just sigh on every 2 weeks? You may be required to attend daily to sign on…Will you pay the £5.80 bus fare? I am not sure we have funding for that…How do you suggest I fund this?….Sorry your 10 minutes are up.

  13. Mini

    If they refuse benefits to people for anything up to 3 years i can see a lot of folks turning to crime to make cash.
    Even if the get them self a jail term , its still gonna cost the government a lot more to keep them all locked up.

  14. Ad's

    I was sanctioned for 3 months recently as I hurt myself while at a work placement and could not attend, I also questioned the shocking H/S at the placement involved so got marked down as a “trouble maker”, I am now struggling even more than ever to find work thanks to the DWP.

    I am now giving some thought to a life of crime.

    Big thank you to the DWP and this useless government of ours!

  15. sonya lippold (@LippoldS)

    I I`m retired, and ok. These signing on benefit experiences, are so awful, you almost have to look away. How can this be allowed
    ok time is money ie. 10 minutes late, but if unavoidable, bus,train, etc late , means you have to starve for weeks …is back to the workhouse conditions, in the 21st century. This needs to be brought to the general publics attention.

  16. Gavin

    The work prog providers make fictitious bookings – presumably so they can claim money. 1 instance they sent me an appointment for the Monday and I rec’d the letter to tell me this the day after ….

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