Shame on you, Job Centre! Getting people off the dole isn’t getting them into work!


One of Vox Political‘s many astute commenters made an extremely good point about government schemes to get people (a) off the dole and (b) into work. They said the fundamental question we should be asking the DWP is: “How many people have you turned into productive taxpaying workers who do not claim any benefits at all?”

It is as though they were prescient and could predict the way the debate has developed this week, firstly with the bogus DWP press release that has allowed some of us to suggest that we should judge the DWP by results, not targets; and now with the declaration by the Commons Work and Pensions committee that Job Centre Plus staff should be rewarded for the number of people they get into work, not just the number they get off the dole.

It seems this is an idea whose time has come.

Employment minister Esther McVey’s time – like that of her boss Iain Duncan Smith – has been and gone. Do not expect her to do anything about this.

Job Centre staff are currently given incentives to get benefit claimants off the dole, and this has led to wholesale abuse of the system of sanctions which can mean people are banned from claiming benefits for three whole years after a third ‘offence’.

People have been sanctioned because the dates on which they applied for jobs did not tally with the number of jobs they were supposed to seek every week – as the Job Centre week starts on Tuesday.

They have been sanctioned for arriving late at their signing-on appointment – because a job interview overran.

They’ve been sanctioned because they didn’t apply online for a job, as advised, because the job had ‘expired’.

They have been sanctioned while on Workfare because signing on – as advised by the Job Centre – made them late for the placement.

They have even been sanctioned for failing to apply for jobs, after they had succeeded in getting a job.

The Work and Pensions committee has diplomatically described this as a “haphazard” approach to assessing claimants, saying many were referred for sanctions inappropriately, or “in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”.

Common sense has no place in a Job Centre overseen by a Conservative-run DWP. The people who work there are under the cosh, just as much as the claimants. They have a target to meet – five per cent of jobseekers off the books every month, unless I am mistaken (perhaps readers could provide the correct figure if I am).

Sanctioning rates in the year to October 2012 stood at 4.2 per cent, so staff were failing to hit this target – but after a sterner regime was introduced in that month, sanctioning increased to five per cent.

The system has been particularly cruel on younger claimants. In the year to October 2012, the sanction rate for those aged 18-24 was eight per cent, per month.

The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was around 860,000 – the highest number in any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form in April 2000.

The committee also said the DWP needed to monitor financial hardship suffered by claimants who lose their benefits. This could include publishing information on the number of claimants “signposted” to food banks by Job Centres and the reasons given for this action.

It is as if Dame Anne Begg (who chairs the committee) has been reading this blog. Readers will know that part of Vox Political‘s Freedom of Information request about incapacity/ESA claimant mortality referred to the well-being of those who had been thrown off-benefit altogether.

I can tell you now that the DWP does not monitor what happens to these people, nor does it have any plan to do so in the future. They are thrown to the wolves.

Dame Anne was quoted in The Guardian, saying: “JCP must be very clearly incentivised to get people into work, not just off benefits.

“The processes by which JCP currently establishes claimants’ needs are haphazard and prone to missing crucial information about a person’s barriers to working, including homelessness and drug dependency. A more thorough and systematic approach to assessing claimants’ needs is required.”

She added: “Whilst conditionality is a necessary part of the benefit system, jobseekers need to have confidence that the sanctioning regime is being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately and the government needs to assure itself that sanctioning is achieving its intended objective of incentivising people to seek work.”

This is exactly what Vox Political has been saying since Rachel Reeves described Labour’s compulsory job guarantee policy on finding work for claimants, last week. Reeves’ words were derided by visitors to certain blogs who said she was as bad as the Conservatives. Now that some flesh is appearing on the bones of her strategy, we can see that this was undeserved.

According to the BBC, ministers cited the recent fall in unemployment to say the system was working, but they failed to mention what their intention was.

Was it working in getting people into jobs?

Or was it only working in getting people off-benefit, as claimed by the committee?

If people were going into jobs, were they real jobs, or fake “self-employed” jobs of the kind that the BBC itself investigated last year, intended only to get claimant numbers down?

What about the rise and rise of Workfare schemes, in which claimants are knocked off the unemployment statistics but continue receiving an equivalent amount to JSA – from the DWP – for a full week’s work, effectively subsidising commercial firms?

It seems likely that ministers will be reluctant to answer those questions.

While institutions like the BBC are determined to broadcast inaccurate stories based on falsified figures supplied by those ministers, it seems they have no incentive to do so.

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16 thoughts on “Shame on you, Job Centre! Getting people off the dole isn’t getting them into work!

  1. Barry Davies

    It is dreadful that the BBC is being used as a government propaganda mouthpiece rather than as an independent reporter of facts, but then they seem to take great joy in referring to a good hospital as Scandal hit every time they mention Stafford, whilst not calling themselves Scandal hit which is current not something 7 years ago. The demonisation of the sick disabled and unemployed by the government seems to be a means of laying the blame for the failures of the banks and other private companies on the most vulnerable people in the nation, and it is time the truth, not benefit street but tax evasion avenue was reported to the nation.

  2. Simon Lee Mountford

    I am a disabled person with a mild learning difficulty but due to the recession there has been such a change in management that they refuse to put support into place, so makes it very difficult for you to stay in your place of employment.They are so much more engrossed in in meeting targets and dash boards rather than trying to help you to stay in employment. Also the companies that are out there that are supposed to support you whilst in employment but they don’t look at if the job is best suited to you they are also very target driven. This means that you go on the revolving door program of in and out of employment not looking at continuity of employment. Which is not good if you have got commitments or a mortgage.So there needs to be lots of changes to private and public organisations and there perceptions once again on people with either visible or none visible disabilities and start to employ you by making minor adjustments.So that we can work of an even playing field.

  3. Jonathan Arnesen

    The excuse that jobcentre staff do this because they have mortgages to pay and are that scared of unemployment themselves doesn’t wash.

      1. bookmanwales

        Not my post but I would like to expand on this.
        The DWP has stated categorically that targets do not exist for sanctioning claimants. If a jobcentre advisor is therefore disciplined for not hitting non -existent targets it becomes a matter for the union to take up on their behalf.
        That “JCP Advisor” is then not a lone figure but part of a much bigger organisation that has the means to end these sanctions.
        The fact that the PCS union has decided to allow it’s members to be disciplined for not hitting non-existent targets should be a matter of shame for the leaders who draw their, not insignificant, salaries in order to protect their members rights at work.
        All the we ever hear from JCP advisors is that they are under pressure and hence treat their clients in a despicable way in order to avoid disciplinary action.

        I am pretty sure the Nuremberg trials made it quite clear that treating people inhumanely on the orders of your superior is not a valid defence anymore.

        On another note: The recently released headlined figures for the unemployed showed a large fall in the “claimant count” not unemployment. The claimant count is only those receiving JSA not those sanctioned or otherwise ineligible to receive JSA.
        Recent figures showing a fall in unemployment of around 140,000 over the last 12 months talies more or less with the number of claimants on long term sanctions

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  6. jaypot2012

    Reblogged on Jay’s Journal and commented:
    This is something that has needed addressing since the coalition started. Cheating the figures by claiming so many are unemployed, yet they are still receiving benefits means that they are still not in jobs! Well not paid ones, and certainly not full time “proper” work!

    If sheeple would only see and work out for themselves, just what this government are doing with figures, then we would have more people realizing that they are being had, yet again!

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  8. AM-FM

    “How many people have you turned into productive taxpaying workers who do not claim any benefits at all?”

    Well with the housing benefit and working age benefits bills both going up despite the cuts, and despite individuals not getting any extra, the net figure must be a large negative value. Minus 2 million??

    They’re the working welfare party, won’t be happy until nearly all workers are on benefits and/or using foodbanks.

  9. Simon Mountford

    The job centres are not interested in you as a person or whether the job suits you and this also applies to these support organisations that are supposed to help people with learning difficulties or disabilities into employment. they are all target driven so they are only interested in getting you into any employment done by what they think you can do, not if is suitable or not to meet government targets. So, it is very hard to put your side of the story or what suits you in the job market.As the job staff seem to know better or so they think. I just wish they would listen more to the person with the disability and then we would not be on this merry go round of being in and then out of employment. I have personally had this happen to me and I don’t think that I am on my own in these matters so they need to change there ways of thinking towards people and if they want to make a difference they also need to start getting this country up and running and start manufacturing in  this country again.

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