If only we could sanction Iain Duncan Smith’s pay


The chickens really are coming home to roost this week.

Earlier on, we had the Million Mask marchers blockading the BBC after the corporation failed to cover other demonstrations, and Ben Elton dealt a final blow to Michael Gove’s First World War delusions by profiting from the former cabinet minister’s criticism of Blackadder Goes Forth – using it as the inspiration for his latest novel.

Yesterday, this blog reported how the Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised Iain Duncan Smith over the failings of the Work Programme.

Today we can look at the sanctioning regime operated by Mr … Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions.

The Public Accounts Committee took … Smith to task about the sanctions operated against people on the Work Programme.

“Sanctions can cause significant financial hardship to individuals, and it is not clear whether the sanctions regime actually works in encouraging people on the Work Programme to engage with the support offered by providers,” said committee chairperson, Margaret Hodge.

“Feedback from some constituents suggests that the number of sanctions has been increasing and that some providers have been recommending sanctions more than others. The Department confirmed that Seetec has referred more claimants for sanction than other providers.

“The Department should monitor whether providers are making the right sanction referrals to the Department and that they are not causing unfair hardship. It should publish the number of sanctions by provider.”

Are they making sure they aren’t causing unfair hardship? Of course not! They couldn’t care less.

And it’s not just in the Work Programme that sanctioning is being abused.

“It emerged during an ongoing inquiry instigated by the parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee that Research conducted by Professor David Stuckler shows that more than 500,000 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants have disappeared from unemployment statistics, without finding work, since the sanctions regime was toughened in October, 2012,” writes kittysjones.

“This means that in August 2014, the claimant count – which is used to gauge unemployment – is likely to be very much higher than the 970,000 figure that the government is claiming, if those who have been sanctioned are included.

“The research finding confirms what many of us already knew.”

She tells us that “the Work and Pensions Committee decided to conduct a further in depth inquiry into benefit sanctions policy, following the findings of the research. This inquiry will consider aspects of sanctions policy which were outside the remit of the Oakley Review. (You can see the terms of reference for the inquiry, and submissions are invited, all details of which are here – Committee launch inquiry into benefit sanctions).”

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams is quoted as follows: “Sanctions are being applied unfairly to job-seekers, as well as the sick and disabled.

The reason the Government is doing this is that it gets them off the JSA claimant figures, so it looks like there are fewer people unemployed.”

This is all good, but we should bear in mind that the Work and Pensions committee has been singularly unsuccessful in its previous attempts to get Mr … Smith to reign in his murderous spree against benefit claimants, and any recommendations are likely to be as toothless as those applied by the Public Accounts Committee to the Work Programme, earlier this week.

kittysjones also quotes an angry exchange between Debbie Abrahams and Mr… Smith during the Work and Pensions Committee questions session on Wednesday, when he said Ms Abrahams’ claims were “’ludicrous’.

“But the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth said : ‘People have died after being sanctioned, Minister.’

“’No, I don’t agree with that,’ Mr Duncan Smith answered. But he has yet to provide any evidence that supports his view.”

There is plenty that supports hers. It’s just a shame that the government denies it.

This is the heart of the matter. We have a government that simply will not accept any evidence that it is harming others – not because the evidence does not exist, but because it doesn’t want to. And ministers believe that there is nothing the public can do to reverse the situation.

Well, there is an election coming. If the Tories fail to gain office next May, they will be exposed and may face legal challenges – not against their department but against themselves – in which they may be made to account for their actions against the mountain of evidence that has been piling up against them.

Tick tock, Tory boys…

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12 thoughts on “If only we could sanction Iain Duncan Smith’s pay

  1. aturtle05

    If the DWP and IDS had done the job they promised to do when they said they would get the level of fraud down in four years and they haven’t, they should all be sanctioned!

  2. Mr.Angry

    One blatant arrogant misguided evil individual, his time will come the sooner the better for the sake of mankind.

  3. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    Re Committee launch inquiry into benefit sanctions – News from Parliament – UK Parliament http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/benefit-sanctions-launch/

    The scope of the inquiry, as proposed, isn’t aggressive and thorough enough, and frankly I’m not surprised. Select Committees are prohibited from investigating individual cases because of barriers presented by the Data Protection Act. I’d like to point out that the Act can be circumvented by requesting that witnesses obtain their personal files from the DWP and Jobcentre.

    Will the inquiry hear from whistleblowers and investigate inappropriate sanctions, Jobcentre targets to take away benefits, and serious accusations of benefit claimant stitching-up? Please see http://twishort.com/2cwgc.

    Ever since the Work and Pensions Committee announced an inquiry into Britain’s benefits sanction regime, I’ve been concerned that the investigation would not be sufficiently wide-ranging. In July, when MPs in Parliament debated the Work and Pensions Committee’s report into the role of Jobcentre Plus, the use of sanctions was repeatedly mentioned—but no one cited this article (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/stitching-up-claimants-part-job-says-3537051) and its serious allegation that benefit claimants were being ‘stitched-up.’

    The DWP has a history of antagonism towards its overseer, the Work and Pensions Committee, which might explain the “soft” benefit sanctions inquiry. The Committee may have no desire to be at loggerheads with an uncooperative Iain Duncan Smith—or its conceivable that Labour may still support the use of benefit sanctions, if elected, and therefore wishes to be superficial in its investigation.

    It is also possible that the Tory Committee members only agreed to a ‘watered down’ inquiry and nothing more substantive.

    The fact that the Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into Britain’s benefit sanctions policy will not be investigating individual cases will likely disappoint Gill Thompson, who has been calling for an investigation into the death of her brother, David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died starving and penniless after his benefits were stopped.

    Neither will the Committee be investigating the use of sanctions in this recent case (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/03/dwp-benefits-electrician-work-placement-labour), nor endeavoring to determine the fate of 340 disabled people who had their benefits stopped for three years after three offenses (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10430825/Half-a-million-sanctions-in-welfare-crackdown.html; open in private tab or window, if necessary).

    I intend to wait until the Work and Pensions Committee releases its report before taking further action. I may be compelled to request that the UN open its own wide-ranging inquiry into this matter. The UN always prefers that domestic remedies be exhausted before filing complaints or inquiry requests with their human rights office, located in Geneva, Switzerland.

    (Montreal, Canada)

    1. Johndee

      Mr Miller – thank you so much for your tireless campaigning to Europe on behalf of us limeys esp. the disabled. If only more Brits could be bothered to get off their arses and take some action instead of so much useless tut tutting then things might change for the better. Please keep up your commendable work. You are trully an inspiration. Thanks again.

  4. HomerJS

    Some MP should directly accuse him of being a murderer. If we get lucky his rage might cause him to have a heart attack.

  5. Stephen Tamblin

    That’s if we are lucky he is a murdering son of a bitch to be honest about it many people in this country will remember the tories at general a election next year I hope so take the Somerset flood plains the government promise every thing got nothing well that says it all

  6. Peter Rogers

    you said ‘The Department confirmed that Seetec has referred more claimants for sanction than other providers’ is there a league table of this cos we’re currently battling Ixion Holdings who I’d never heard of before

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You could probably ask one of the (Labour) Work and Pension committee members; I’m sure they’d help if they knew. Anne Begg, Debbie Abrahams and Sheila Gilmore are on Twitter, or you can find their email addresses on the parliament.uk website.

      1. Peter Rogers

        Thank you, Ixion are moving into Croydon and they’re doing so quite aggressively. They’ve threatened the charity I work for with ‘if you don’t do it others will and they’ll be worse than you’. One of the managers is all for taking people on for the reason stated above but I will name and shame her on the Boycott Workfare website should moral values not prevail.

  7. Darren

    There are two women who chair this committee – Hodge and Begg. When Hodge is in the hot seat, the committee appears to be more aggressive in its questioning than when Begg occupies it. Are we seeing a “bad cop, good cop” routine being played out here, where some information that the DWP agrees can be suitably criticised is under Hodge, but where it hides information that is not wanted public under Begg’s chairpersonship?

    begg always comes across as a tolerant mother figure chiding a wayward child, whereas Hodge adopts the role of the stern headmistress wanting to get to the bottom of disruptive behaviour. For my money, I would prefer to see Hodge in the Chair at all times.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You’re confusing two committees. Margaret Hodge chairs Public Accounts; Dame Anne Begg chairs Work and Pensions.
      Other than that, it’s perfectly possible that a ‘good cop; bad cop’ routine is being played, but it wouldn’t have anything to do with what the DWP agrees.

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