Abuse of sanctions causes huge drop in unemployment claims


Esther McVey must be so proud. She has managed to make the unemployment benefit system do the exact opposite of its original purpose.

Today, the Coalition announced that in the last three months the UK has enjoyed “the largest quarterly rise in employment since records began”, with 30.15 million people in work.

This might be a good thing, depending on whether those jobs are well-enough paid to keep their holders from having to claim in-work benefits. The number of hours worked has also increased, but this may be due to the increase in employment itself, rather than an indication of fewer zero-hours or part-time jobs, which help employers more than workers.

The real cause for concern is the huge leap in the number of unemployed people who are not claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, to 1,015,000. That’s a massive 43.7 per cent of the total workless population.


Ms McVey was probably whooping with joy when she heard that her government’s policies have discouraged so many people from claiming. It means the government isn’t paying them any money in benefits – exactly as intended.

The figures speak for themselves. The new sanctions regime started in October 2012, when the percentage of people who weren’t claiming JSA stood at just 37 per cent (around 936,100 – there were 2.53 million unemployed at the time). In the 15 months since, a further 78,900 have been discouraged from claiming by the new system, according to the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI).

They haven’t got jobs.

In fact, they don’t have any visible means of support.

Why aren’t they claiming?

“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.”

“You have a job interview which overruns so you arrive at your job centre appointment nine minutes late. You get sanctioned for a month.”

“Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has “expired” so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.”

“You are on a workfare placement and your job centre appointment comes round. The job centre tells you to sign on then go to your placement – which you do. The placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for 3 months.”

These are all real experiences of real jobseekers – not scroungers, skivers or layabouts, as reported in a Vox Political article last month.

And they’re still going on. Benefit Tales published this account, from Facebook page The People vs the Government, DWP and Atos, today: “My lad been sanctioned yet again by job centre this time for not applying for enough jobs. He has applied for all those he can physically get to, we live in a rural area and buses are very limited. Yet they said he should have applied for the ones that are impossible for him to get to and from.”

So let’s all remember, next time we hear the government spouting “good news” about employment figures… It isn’t good news for everyone.

The benefit system has been perverted. It should be providing a safety net to keep people out of poverty while they find a new job.

Instead, the Coalition is bullying people into destitution and asking us to celebrate.

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  1. socialaction2014 January 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Social Action.

  2. argotina1 January 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Benefit tales.

  3. Paul Smyth January 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on The Greater Fool.

  4. Mike Sivier January 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Here’s another sanction story from Vox reader ‘Scooby Doo’: “i would like to bring to your attention. to a situation of mine and get it out onto the world wide web so to speak, regarding Benefit sanctions. rising. two weeks ago i made a claim for job seekers allowance, at my initial interview i was given a job seekers direction, that ordered me to make an account on universal jobsmatch by the 20th of this month, i did as they asked but never used my real primary Email address, i made a new one solely for this purpose it was something along the lines of [email protected] i went to an appointment there on Monday and was told I’m being sanctioned because i used a derogatory Email address. hope this makes sense regards. i sure will appeal it but i just think it’s getting crazy i could hear the adviser next to mine sanctioning some other poor soul.”

    • scooby doo January 22, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      thanks Mike can i post the same question here could any Vox political readers answer a question for me. in order to claim jsa do i have to supply them with a telephone number be it a mobile/landline thanks in advance.

      • Ulysses January 23, 2014 at 12:32 am - Reply

        In short:

  5. robert fillies January 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Mike

    Just to let you know, I copied and pasted this article to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and our Labour Party candidate for the next General Election in Dover Claire Hawkins. Also several other articles of yours went with it (hope you don’t mind).I did explain the articles were yours.

    • Mike Sivier January 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      No, I don’t mind. Hopefully they’ll make enlightening reading.

  6. untynewear January 22, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR and commented:
    Here in the North East, and despite sanctions being applied as rigorously as anywhere else, unemployment actually rose ! We must really be in deep s*** …

  7. jeffrey davies January 22, 2014 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    they know what they do and don’t care either banksters friends covering their backs but jobs nah its all piffle poop they think the mases believe it I hope not

  8. [email protected] January 22, 2014 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    I became unemployed, signed on for JSA and went through the process. I was eventually awarded zero as I had some savings. As I’m over 60 & under 65 and worked continuously since leaving school it was inevitable that I would have a few bob squirreled away. I told the JS advisor that I still wanted to sign on so that I would be a statistic. She blatantly told me to get lost and disappear like everyone else in my position and not waste their time.

    How many others are in my position?
    Not yet officially retired but living off their savings.

    • Mike Sivier January 22, 2014 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      All I can tell you is there are 8.93 million people who are economically inactive. This does include people who’ve been thrown off IB/ESA, though.

    • beastrabban January 22, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      Jerry – I had pretty much the same experience. I signed on, and they told me I was not eligible for benefit, but I wanted to get my National Insurance paid. I kept signing on until I was more or less told to go away. The girl even asked me if I was ‘trying to make a point’ by continuing to sign on.

  9. Alis McCabe January 22, 2014 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    So if JC+ don’t like your email address??? WTF?
    Thatcher must be rubbing hands in glee
    Absolutely disgusting

  10. scooby doo January 22, 2014 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    she said in using that Email address a potential employer could see it. and i was told to use my real one. it also states on the ujm site that the equality questionnaire is not compulsory but in order to actually register with the site it wo’nt allow you to unless you fill it out !! so that’s nonsense!! also your details including your CV are kept on file in Utah USA. your CV the lot!! I’m having nothing to do with with it. it’s full of fake jobs that could open us to possible identity fraud, also used to get you sanctioned!! i am all for using the web as a tool for getting work but it won’t and never will be through that absolute crock of shxt site!

  11. beastrabban January 22, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog.

  12. Leoni Al-ajeel January 22, 2014 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    I have 2 sons who i will not allow to sign on because i am not having my sons being used as slaves, working in a job for 30hrs a week for £56.80 a week. I struggle to keep them but would rather struggle than have them as slaves for some corporate company to make money from them. I work 25hrs a week on minimum wage and had my working tax credits stopped because i should work 30hrs a week. I am trying my best to find more work but there is no jobs to find. My sons are also trying to find work with no success. And if they signed on they would probably be sanctioned for nothing, this would cause too many problems for me, always having to inform the council that my sons no longer have an income or they do have an income. But this is what the Tories want to achieve, for you not to sign on.

    • [email protected] January 23, 2014 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      I haven’t signed on for a few years either though I should be doing so as I am unemployed. If there was a social security system worth the name ie one that actually helped me with training ect and one that didn’t treat me like shit as soon as I walked through the door I would attend as well. That IS the reality of IDS’s so-called ‘reforms’. A future government will wonder where all their potential tax revenue went to.

  13. […] Esther McVey must be so proud. She has managed to make the unemployment benefit system do the exact opposite of its original purpose. Today, the Coalition announced that in the last three months th…  […]

  14. ispy January 23, 2014 at 9:11 am - Reply

    For scooby doo

    There is no statutory requirement for anyone to supply the DWP with a telephone number.

    As far as your email address goes, why don’t you use a browser add-on called “MaskMe” which generates random email addresses?

    You also don’t need to give Jobcentre personnel access to your Universal Jobmatch account, nor do need to accept emails from the DWP – don’t tick the boxes when registering!

    For Mike Sivier – here is an interesting report about the evil sanctions regime operating in Jobcentres:


  15. 1234 January 23, 2014 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Please can we not use the term “workless” it’s more tory re – labelling (presumably because it sounds much like “worthless”). The term is Unemployed.

    One of the main reasons the right has been so successful in appealing to the daily mail crowd is this kind of re – labelling, framing the debate exactly how they want it.

    Sadly by and large the terms have been adopted by everyone, even those such as yourself who do a great job getting information about how vile this government’s policies are. However using their language doesn’t help anyone but them.

    It’s not “workless” it’s “unemployed” just as it’s not “welfare reform” it’s “social security cuts”

    • Mike Sivier January 23, 2014 at 10:04 am - Reply

      Well, since I was the one who complained so bitterly about the use of ‘welfare’ instead of ‘social security’, I can hardly disagree with you!

  16. Joseph Smith January 23, 2014 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Have to wonder if the BoE will take into consideration all those on sanction and those denied JSA because of frivolous reasons or because some bitter twisted Job centre person decided NO. And will they consider those unemployed who don’t want to claim because they don’t want the stigma or to be treated as a second class citizen. Finally will the BoE consider the amount of vacancies measured against the numbers of unemployed, I.E. 4/5 : 1 against. Or do we need to start a campaign to educate the Canadian immigrant?

    • Mike Sivier January 23, 2014 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Campaign of education I suspect.

    • Jonathan Wilson January 23, 2014 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      Actually you raise a very good point… if the BOE bases its decisions on incorrect manipulated data that presents a false “good news” analysis then potentially it could do something based on it that would have catistrophic consequences.

      For example if its unemployment rate test is reached, and wages were going up by X% against a Y% inflation rate which predicted that an interest rate rise of Z% would have no general effect and not impact on house prices nor significantly increase re-possessions (when X% is over inflated by the top 1% of earners, Y% is unrealistically low due to say the 50quid green reduction and/or shops massively discounting to inflate purchases/turnover and not profit) and when it does instead of tapping on the breaks lightly it slams the gears into reverse while still traveling forward… repossessions go up hugely, house prices suffer a major downward re-evaluation (due to 10s’ thousands of repossessions hitting the auction rooms) debt rates hit the roof, people stop buying white goods and make do with last years ipad/phone/tv/sofa, major retail goes tits up, amazon goes to the wall, the delivery market and post collapses… etc. etc.

      And all because, the gov fiddled the figures.

      • jaypot2012 January 23, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

        In some ways that would be a great thing to happen as the only way this un-elected coalition will take note, is if they are hit in the pocket! That’s what we should have been doing for the last couple of years, as they would have been ousted a long time ago!
        It’s going to happen as they want it to happen – so that they can stay in. But they want to make sure that the poor have nothing first, that they will be weak and undernourished due to hunger, and that’s when they’ll turn the water cannons on them!

  17. jray January 23, 2014 at 10:18 am - Reply

    I signed on last week(Post WP) I had written down the 22 UJM jobs that I applied for,but the adviser only asked for my Claimant Commitment booklet “You need to be more specific” I wrote as much info in the booklet as I could,but here is an additional supplement as to who and where I have applied “I cannot accept that” Why? “It has too be in the booklet” I have no more space “Generalise,we are not interested in how many positions you apply for,we are interested that you are actively searching on a daily basis” total nonsense,I went to withdraw my benefit 4 days later,Not,I made an appointment with JCP for the next day,why was my JSA stopped? (i am sofa surfing) the DWP had sent a form regarding where/who I was living with,I had on the 3 previous visits filled out a similar form,where I listed 7 different addresses that I stay at,but insisted that all mail continues to be sent to a C/O that I have used for over 2 years,the adviser had changed this to another(unknown to me),but had entered 24 xxx rather than 29 xxx after enquiring with a Manager it will take 2-4 weeks to sort,but I am at fault for not replying from that address and will be sanctioned 2 weeks JSA,,BS I will appeal.

  18. seachranaidhe1 January 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.

  19. foodbankhelper January 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    You’ve nailed this issue Mike. The Coalition is encouraging the people of this country to take satisfaction from hearing about people being emotionally tortured. In the foodbank last week I was told I’d just missed a client who’s been sanctioned for the third time. He’d missed an appointment because his 84-year-old father had a fall and he had gone over straight away to help him. Guess what? – the job centre has now told him not to come back – aka how to clean up the jobless figures….

    • Mike Sivier January 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      He MUST go back. Tell him to seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

  20. truthaholics January 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    | UK social security: From ruling the waves to waiving the rules!

  21. […] Abuse of sanctions causes huge drop in unemployment claims. […]

  22. Lucy January 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Oh look! It’s Vox Political, an article on abuse of sanctions!
    Oh look it’s an existing system with sanctions!
    Oh look, the sanctions are being abused!
    Oh my! Over on The Void, yesterday, Mike Sivier was supporting a proposed scheme from Labour that has sanctions, but Mike believes that sanctions are ok if they are only used to deter fraud

    Mike, you cannot have it both ways

    If a system contains sanctions, it will be abused and people will die, as they are doing now.

    The reality is that punitive systems with sanctions do nothing but kill
    They kill the spirit and the will to live
    When the will to live has gone because the person has endured too much and can endure no more, they are vulnerable to death. By their own hand, by starvation, by lack of essential medicine.

    Sanctions will never deter fraud. The very few who try to defraud the system will always find a way to do so.

    All sanctions achieve is misery for the poor sods subjected to them and death for the poorer sods who are at the end of what can be endured

    I used to think you were a top bloke with your blog, calling out injustice on the poor and highlighting the corruption that flourishes.

    But now, after seeing how you voraciously defended Neo Liberal New Labour and their latest proposal to carry on abusing the vulnerable, the unemployed, the sick and disabled, I believe that you are just after a media spot where you can curry favour with the politicians.

    You won’t like that. You will feign horror that I dare to suggest it. But you know what?

    It’s the truth.

    • Mike Sivier January 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      I’m not having it both ways, Lucy.

      Why not stop to think about what’s going on?

      Sanctions are being abused at the moment, so I write against that.

      A new system is being proposed by a political group that opposes the current administration. You have chosen to believe that it will behave in exactly the same way. You have no evidence to support this.

      In fact, you make a few baseless claims. You carry on and on about me defending neoliberal New Labour when you know perfectly well that I do not support neoliberalism and oppose those in Labour who do.

      Where is your evidence that Labour (not New Labour) wants to abuse the vulnerable? In your mind?

      Where is your evidence that Labour wants to abuse the unemployed, sick and disabled? In your mind.

      Where is your evidence to suggest that I want “a media spot”? In your mind.

      Your allegations are baseless. You have jumped to conclusions based on a knee-jerk reaction to the trigger-word ‘sanctions’.

      So, again, I say: Stop and think.

      If you spread these poisonous, unfounded opinions around, as I suspect you have been, then you’ll be cementing the Tories into office again after 2015 – with a mandate to worsen the regime that we both already despise.

  23. Gandalfsfrippet January 24, 2014 at 4:22 am - Reply

    An interesting read.

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