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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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