Fewer people are claiming JSA than should be. Why is McVey claiming this is good?

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government's policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government’s policies are helping people; it is more likely she is driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Only Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions could claim that its success in bullying tens of thousands of people who deserve Jobseekers’ Allowance off-benefit is an achievement.

How are these people supporting themselves? Savings? The good graces of rich friends or relatives? In the long run, the British economy will suffer as this money is drained from the communities it should be feeding.

According to a government press release, there has been a “dramatic fall in the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance”. The DWP says this is due to its policy entitled “Helping people to find and stay in work”, but this seems unlikely – as more people are out of work now than when the Coalition government took office!

“The number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance fell dramatically over the last month, by more than 40,000,” the article begins, stating that this is “the biggest drop in a single month since 1997.

“That contributes to a total fall of 450,000 in the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits since early 2010. And for the first time since the end of 1997, Jobseekers’ Allowance claims fell in every local authority in Great Britain over the last year.

“Minister for Employment Esther McVey said: ‘The number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance is down in every local authority over the past year. Off the back of a global recession, this is not something that should be sniffed at. It’s a huge testament to the tenacity and determination of business owners and workers in this country.

“‘Add to this the fact that the last month saw falls in both long term and youth unemployment – and the fact that there are now a million more people in jobs compared to when this government took office and we can see that this government is making good on our commitment to helping people get off benefits and into work.'”

Off benefits? Maybe. Into work? No.

The Office for National Statistics, in its Labour market statistics bulletin for July 2010, notes that the number of people who were unemployed between March and May that year was 2.47 million. That compares with 2.49 million unemployed between June and August this year.

So 20,000 more people are unemployed than in 2010 and Esther McVey is celebrating because 40,000 have stopped signing on.

This does not mean 470,000 people aren’t signing on but should be – statistics aren’t as clear-cut as that (unfortunately). But it does mean that there is a large amount of uncertainty that should be cleared up.

Several explanations present themselves. Firstly, a significant number of these people may have been sanctioned for a period of one month or longer – for such terrible crimes as attending a job interview when they were due to sign on (Jobcentre Plus staff habitually refuse to alter signing times to accommodate jobseekers attending interviews).

Many may be taking part in Workfare or Work Programme activities, for which they continue to be paid benefits but are not listed as being unemployed. Didn’t the Conservatives announce a plan to put long-term unemployed people into indefinite Workfare, in a bid to massage the unemployment figures in exactly the way highlighted by Ms McVey in this press release?

Alternatively, they may have been forced to apply for a sickness or disability-related benefit. Many jobseekers report worsening mental health including depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of encounters with unsympathetic Jobcentre staff. From this we can deduce that the policy title “Helping people to find and stay in work” is a misnomer. It should be “Forcing people to sign off and stay away from the Job Centre”.

This leads to the fourth possibility – that jobseekers have been bullied off-benefit by the attitude of DWP staff. I was having a conversation with a friend a few days ago, who said that he was fed up with the attitude of the people at his local Job Centre. They weren’t interested in what he had to say, and were only interested in threatening him with loss of benefits if he didn’t do what they said. My friend was increasingly of the opinion that it wasn’t worth going through this charade every week, and it would be better for him to stop signing before he became another mental health statistic.

Finally: Many may have committed suicide. The pressure may have been too much for them to bear, coupled with the shame – which has been magnified hugely by the right-wing tabloid press – of being on benefits in the first place. Suicides climbed by eight per cent in 2011 (the last year for which statistics are available).

Does Esther McVey tell us how many people have been sanctioned? No. Does she say how many have moved onto other benefits? No. Does she tell us how many moved into jobs (a statistic that Job Centre staff must have, as this is what they are supposed to be “helping” people to do)? No. Does she say how many have died – due to any cause, not just suicide? No.

This is yet another useless, make-believe announcement from the Department of Statistical Fiction.

If this is the best Esther McVey can manage in her new position as Employment Minister, then let us all wish her the shortest tenure possible, followed by an ignominious and humiliating departure.

35 thoughts on “Fewer people are claiming JSA than should be. Why is McVey claiming this is good?

  1. jeffrey davies

    stacking shelves working for that sally army yet still drawing benefit but now off the books yes more lies yet the charitys have now become the new arabs trading our bodies for that they want greed has become rife among charitys but also lies they tell by saying nah they don’t do it its just another lie by them jeff3

  2. Anthony Turtle

    Perhaps Ms McTeevee has learned a new skill on top of glamour modelling (yuk those photos were sickening) and television presenting – that of juggling?

    Now when you are juggling three balls, when number one is in the air, it is not in your hand. Number two is leaving your hand, it is not in your hand and number three is above your catching hand (it is not in your hand). Now to complete the analogy – When group one are on employment courses, they are not unemployed. Group two are on work placements, they are unemployed and only on a short contract, but they are not unemployed. Group three are those who have been declared as fit for work by Atos and the DWP and are appealing, therefore not unemployed!

  3. Samwise Gamgee

    Let’s face it, many of these “positive outcomes” (according to the DWP at least) are a simple result of people being sanctioned, nothing else. The government has spent the last year trumpeting its new, even tougher sanctions and conditionality regime; it should come as no surprise to see a fall in people claiming JSA. My only question is why has it taken so long to see such a large fall in the number of claimants. Perhaps the cumulative effect of months of bullying is taking its toll on more and more people, or maybe the jobcentres are applying the rules even more rigorously than before.

    One thing is certain, and that is that this is not good news, least of all for those sanctioned with no other source of income. That the government can say this is a “good thing” tells us all we need to know about their attitudes.

    What a shower of s***s we have governing us.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Of course Job Centre Plus staff receive just six weeks’ training now, apparently. It used to be 13 weeks and even then, they weren’t trained properly. Add to that the fact that many DWP offices have been found to be falsifying their records in one way or another (this is according to anecdotal evidence, unfortunately – but from a source that used to be within the DWP) and you have a huge mess where there used to be a public service.

      1. Joanna

        I realise this question is really going to annoy you, but why do people sign on if they can survive not to? Please don’t be angry at me asking this, I just don’t know, because if I had the choice I wouldn’t either.

  4. Jonathan Wilson

    Good old fester mcVile… from minister against the disabled to minister against the unemployed.

    Talk about turning a turd over and then being surprised its still a turd.

    To be honest I’ve given up listening to the witterings of anyone from the DWP (especially the damned “spokesperson” who never fails to ignore the question posed and instead rattles a pre-determined sound bite that has nothing to do with a specific issue, its as if they have given up the pretence and gone into full lockdown mode) as its just all obvious soundbite bullshit bingo that fails to stand a modicum of scrutiny…

    Heck they seem to be stopping most of the stats they used to publish as they didn’t like the way they were going, sudden increase in the deaths of old people last year… stop collecting the stats so that any additional deaths caused by the inflation busting increases of gas n lecki will not be seen in future. Don’t like the number of deaths of people after being declared “fit for work” getting bigger, refuse to collate them by running the original sql statement again… don’t like the stats for referrals to food banks due to benefit sanctions/delays/other, take it off the referral forms.

  5. Jacqui B

    Then there’s the 50 plus claimant who has enough stamps not to need to sign on because there’s no point if you don’t get any money… They’ve worked 40 years paying tax and NI but still only got JSA for a short while. They may have a very small works pension they can claim and they may have a wife who is a pensioner. She will claim pension credit – and they will just about cope… Another type of person hidden from the unemployment figures…

  6. Nick

    i think when you have cases like what Dennis Skinner outlined last week in the commons and that death failed to move the prime minister then you think to yourself why is David Cameron not reading the riot act to the DWP



    one of the most horrific pictures you will ever see in modern EU history then you know that David Cameron is a monster after all as no one could mistake that man as being fit for work only a sociopath would and if this being the case the deaths of many sick and disabled people are yet to come in there thousands

      1. Nick

        it will be impossible to ignore what that man went through with his twisted face in pain and despair

        That is a very tragic picture of a look of torture and lawyer needs to look into this case and the police because from the angle i’m looking at is that this man died from a deliberate act of criminal negligence

        in other words those who came in contact with him from ATOS and the DWP wonted him to die and any judge who had this case before him would very clearly see that this man was never fit for work and was prematurely killed by such severe stress he was placed under and died also with the belief he was a scrounger which caused him great mental angiush

        this man must have gone through hell before he died and his face will live on for the rest of my life that i do know and will proberly live on in the lives of many who have seen it

        his face will never be forgotten

  7. sasastro

    I’ve just got a temporary job after having been unemployed for a year. It’s a 6 month contract. I just don’t think I’ll bother to re-sign on at the end of that 6 months, it’s not worth the hassle. The Job Centre didn’t help me find this job, in fact I would say that it hindered more than helped. I’ve paid my 30 years of NI so I’ll just economise until retirement

  8. bookmanwales

    The point what seems to be missing here is the shift away from reporting unemployment figures to reporting “claimant” figures

    The last half dozen or so press releases have never mentioned a fall in unemployment but a fall in the “claimant count” so now only those actually receiving JSA are counted.

    40,000 being sanctioned, awaiting claims processing, or on appeal in a 3 month period is well within reasonable bounds and this is the probable reason for the lower “claimant” count.

    The supposed austerity plan has never been about creating employment nor to make work pay, it is purely an exercise to kick as many people off benefits as possible and the fact they now openly produce a “claimant count” with such glee shows exactly this fact.

  9. Penny Ledger

    Many people assessed as “fit for work” and taken off Employment Support Allowance have been turned away from job centres and refused ESA because they are too ill or disabled to be available for work.

    1. Mike Sivier

      But if they are too ill or disabled for work, they should qualify for ESA – it’s just that the DWP set targets for how many people should get it.

      1. Karen M

        My experience is that the Decision Makers are biased and timing is everything. I presented with more or less the same medical evidence of my conditions with my claims. The first I was fit for work even after appeal. The second put in the support group. The same medical conditions but better worded in the ESA50 the second time round. It rather suggests there are hidden targets.

        What happened to David Coupe was horrendous. Probably not that rare.

  10. Jeremy

    ” it is more likely she is driving the needy to despair and suicide.”

    as soon as she opens her mouth I think she would drive anyone to dispair

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  12. Budgie Bird

    The number of people being sanctioned at any one time is likely to be well over 60 thousand and more likely to be over 100 thousand. The last time the DWP issued any figures on numbers sanctioned, there was an average of over 60 thousand being sanctioned per month. Given that they changed the rules to make the sanction periods longer, it is highly probable that the figure on JSA sanctions at any one time is over 100 thousand. If a person is sanctioned for three months, then they will only appear on DWP figures on the month they were sanctioned.

    To make matters worse they now appear to be going back through records from 2012 to catch out people using the law that was retrospectively introduced earlier this year following the Cait Reilly workfare victory. My neighbour recently received a sanction for allegedly breaching rules a full year and 3 days after the alleged event. The DWP apologised for this and said it was because the law was changed earlier in the year.

    Hardly surprising that the DWP are loathe to provide any update figures on the numbers of people sanctioned. They are likely to show that the only way they are reducing the number of JSA claimants is by sanctioning them and cancelling their claims for months at a time.

  13. Pearl Findlay

    I was told by my advisor, that despite being a professional photographer with a 2;1 degree in photography in the arts, I surely wasn’t capable of being a photographer with a disability. She didn’t ask what my disability was or how it impacted me. Even when I explained that I was fully capable, she refused to put down photography as a valid form of work that I was searching for. When I explained that my disability was something that can not be held against me or my profession, and reminded her of the equality act and disability discrimination, she went on to call me hostile.

    Just one example of many, I have never NOT encountered upset, rudeness and plain discrimination at the Job Centre. I have just been given some temporary, 0 hours, low paid teaching assistant work. Im still working under 16 hours a week, but i’d rather live off pennies than be ridiculed, criticised and made to feel ashamed of who I am once a week.

  14. Alex W

    The inability of unemployed people “living as though husband and wife” with someone earning a tiny bit of money to claim income-based JSA (instead only up to 6 months’ dole depending on NI contributions) must be masking a hell of a lot of unemployment from the claimant count (a friend, going in and out of temp work living with a boyfriend, is in that situation).

    Indeed, how many women in marriages or co-habiting relationships (given there is still more of a stigma when men don’t work and are supported by a partner – or at least it feels like it) who would work if they could are just pretending they don’t want to/couldn’t do with the extra income in order to save face?

  15. Petra Howard

    And then there are, of course, those people no longer entitled to JSA/ESA (whatever it is called today) because their partner has found employment. Mind, these people do still need to attend Jobcentre Plus to sign on every two weeks but get no money; they just need to spend more to attend.

  16. Groc

    For me the biggest giveaway was in the headline of this press release. Since when have government departments been using such tabloid style sensationalist language? The propaganda used to at least pretend to be neutral and factual now the lies have just become more and more blatant and no one is picking then up on it.

    1. Karen M

      Perhaps it’s all part of the “can’t do statistics” cover-up? Trick: disguise short-comings with speil to hide statistical innumeracy. We should expect to see more of the same each time the Government gets in a twist with numbers. Should be fun to look out for.

  17. AM-FM

    there has been a “dramatic fall in the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance”.

    We know, most of them are now down at the bleedin’ food banks, the Condemned’s idea of economic success.

    If they’re so good at collecting important stats, where’s last May’s sanction figures.

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  19. Charles Loft

    Mike,- the main reason people are off JSA and ESA apart from deliberate adverse ATOS decisions is sanctions. Jul 2011 150 sanctions, April 2012 – 15000 (100 times more) sanctions. I’ve requested FOI figures for Sept 2013 on this. .

  20. rainbowwarriorlizzie

    The reason why there are fewer claiming JSA than should be, is that the IDS of this world has forced them into suicide and Ms McVey should be made accountable for her part and aiding and abetting in their mass slaughter.

  21. Bill Silver

    1.4 million in part time work, like myself on 10 hours a week, desperate for more but only likely to be offered a further 6 from my employer at present.
    16 hours is of course the minimum required to be taken off JSA. leaving the average person no better off. But a regular income, even if it’s not much more than what you’d get on JSA, is still better than leaving a few blank spaces on your looking for work book for whatever reason, and waiting for the chop. a very real possibility these days when you get no allowance of time to find anything that might pay a decent wage.

    So, fear is the key I guess.

    Isn’t Blackmail a crime? But then when it’s the great unwashed Unemployed on the receiving end I guess it’s OK. After all, we’re all scroungers who deserve a good kicking .

  22. Bill Silver

    And one last thing. Let us give the Tory mantra, “No more of the something for nothing culture” a resounding Boo! and welcome in the new year with our own.
    Say hello to, “The practically nothing for something culture”. Introduced, by force, by your caring, law making. law breaking, Conservative party.
    Oh. I almost forgot, there are a few Liberal democrats we can thank too.
    Let’s not forget the monkey whilst raising a glass to the organ grinder.

  23. Bill Silver

    I have something. A quality the Conservatives try hard to convince others that someone in my circumstances does not possess. That is a conscience and scruples.

    I am not a bad person I just can’t find a job. Except that I have. Part time, 10 hours a week.

    To me, my little job,such as it is, means everything and I put into it 110%. But to the powers that be, it stands for nothing. Making me no less a villain in their eyes than anyone residing in the country’s “Benefit Streets”.

    But who are the villains? Must I be counted among their number? Must I really?

    Demonized and persecuted by a government who cloak their persecution beneath a veneer of “Fair Play”.

    “Fair” is a word they brandish like a club to beat us with, yet they take away our right to brandish it ourselves. Is that “Fair”?

    Fighting for our rights is something they wish to take away from us. Yet one more thing they intend to tear down. For this Government is a Government of destruction, not creation. Austerity and the crash giving them the right,as they see it, once in power , to take everything they despise that has arisen in this country in the last 70 years and tear it down brick by brick. To replace it with an idealized Right wing demi-paradise that cannot exist in the 21st century. Yet which they intend to ram down the throats of every man,woman and child in this land.

    Now, if I can see this, with no background in politics or an Eton education, then why are so many buying into it? Leaving us, the great unwashed unemployed, as a primary weapon in the inevitable pre-election campaigning that will sweep them back into power in 2015 with potentially and GOD FORBID! UKIP, as not so strange bed fellows.

    To you who moderates this forum, I ask you to take my words and spread them to the four corners of this nation, for I do not have the power to do so myself. To pass them on to whoever will take heed of them. So that they may, at least help to dent the iron skin of the iron Lady’s heartless children. If not cut them enough to bleed.

    I thank you.

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