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Sometimes I’m taken by surprise. Mostly I’m not. But this is a new tactic. A new target driven tactic employed by the DWP.
For anyone claiming JSA, ESA Income Support or universal credit you might be familiar with a local service compliance interview. They send these letters out usually on a random basis or sometimes on the say so of a suspected fraud taking place. Now these interviews are compulsory and if you don’t attend then your money will get stopped.
Whilst attending one of these interviews you are normally treated like a criminal, guilty before being proven innocent, most likely innocent of any wrongdoing as you have been randomly picked in the first place. You are taken to a room which looks just like a police interview room. They record everything like the police do, only in this case you are most likely innocent. You are asked to bring with you all documentation and proof to say you are who you are. This is what happened to a local lady who will remain anonomous to prevent any harrasment from the DWP. Here is what happened.
After being admitted to hospital for an operation, she returned home to a “compliance interview” letter.Now the only “crime” that this lady committed was to become ill. She is claiming ESA and was previously claiming JSA. There has been no other change in her circumstances, but she is regarded as a criminal and will be treated as such.
The lady concerned phone up the DWP on the number provided.To ask why she has been asked for an interview (interrogation ) and to inform them that as a disabled person and therefore classed as vulnerable she will be bringing an advocate with her. Here is a summary of the conversation.
It took her a while but she eventually got through to a real person. This chap sounded quite nice apparently but wasn’t expecting any questions. People normally just comply, they don’t question the DWPs decisions he said. He sounded compassionate for a DWP worker, that he was under great pressure to perform these interviews. He didn’t say he was under pressure but I am presuming that he is because he has been told that he’s got to claw £1000 back from innocent people, people that have been claiming the correct amount of money and have committed no benefit fraud. So she is just a person on the list of targets for this clawback. He said that the DWP had supposed to have sent her a previous letter, which surprise surprise they didn’t. He didn’t argue the case for the DWP as he believed that she was knowledgeable and it was pointless doing so. She asked him why he had given her all this information… He said that he did because she had asked lots of questions and his tone wasn’t of a person happy in his job. She also informed him that she will be taking a witness into the interview and that she wants proof of all said letters from the DWP to herself that hadn’t arrived. After all it’s a well known fact that these letters don’t get sent out in the first place and the onus is on them to prove that they sent them and not on her for not receiving them.
There are several issues that need to be spoken about here. The first is that these compliance letters are now being used as a form of target for the DWP. Never before have I heard of this. We all have heard about sanction targets, but compliance targets? Wow. That’s an all time low.
The second is the fact that you are proven guilty before you are even seen and are even interviewed in police like surroundings. This is shocking because even in a court of law you are supposed to be innocent before being proven guilty. The DWP doesn’t see it this way. And now they have a £1000 target to aim for innocent victims are going to be fraudulently accused of committing benefit fraud and will be asked to repay money that they do not owe, and have never owed. After all the DWP will want to reach that £1000 target so the most vulnerable will be targeted for this.
The third is that the DWP are openly committing fraud. It’s much the same as demanding money with menaces. A very vulnerable person sitting in a compliance interview hosted by usually two very hostile DWP workers will agree to anything just to get out of the building. Their money will stop and they could well loose their home.
The fourth and the last for now because I’m sure that I could think of more is that the decent members of staff working for the DWP are being put at risk by being forced to comply to enforcing these actions. The man concerned knew it was wrong but because he most likely he knows how bad it is to be unemployed, he has had to choose to enforce it. This is very wrong. Not all DWP workers are bad but the good ones tend to be the exception to the rule these days. They end up leaving or becoming ill because they cannot stand the stress and the wrongdoings anymore.
Please share this blog. Let the DWP know that we are aware of their latest trick. If you receive one of their compliance letters always question it and demand a witness to any interview. That is your right so use it. We cannot allow them to get away with this fraud. Making the poorest pay for the banking crisis which was created by the richest is never acceptable.
As my comrade States “With every twist of the screw that takes place it becomes more urgent that the jobcentre workers stand shoulder to shoulder with the claimants. Each generation has to relearn what solidarity means – that what the power of capitalist ideology does to us!”
Quick note. ESA is employment and support allowance. JSA is Jobseeker’s Allowance. Universal credit is what it says on the tin.
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