The Department for Work and Pensions is back to its old tricks.
Benefit sanctions were suspended during the Covid-19 lockdowns – mostly due to the inability of hired-gun assessors from private firms to hold face-to-face interviews where they could find fault with claimants.
Those days are over.
Face-to-face interviews resumed in March and, in just four months, sanctions multiplied more than 15 times from what was a very high starting number.
They rose from 960 in March to a massive 15,929 in July. The figure now is probably horrifying; DWP officers have a lot of ground to make up.
And where I state “make up”, be assured that there’s an intentional double entendre in those words. The grounds for sanction are more likely to be fabricated than genuine, in This Writer’s opinion.
Remember: the total amount of benefit fraud is carried out by fewer than two per cent of claimants.
Remember also that Jodey Whiting was sanctioned for failing to attend an interview about her disability benefit. She was unable to be at the interview because she was in hospital with a brain cyst.
She also had an incurable condition that could only worsen, so the interview should only have been about whether she deserved higher payments. DWP officers, of course, decided to stop all her benefit payments. End result: she died.
The current wheeze is to sanction people who can’t attend interviews because they are self-isolating with Covid-19.
Tory government ministers have been warned time and time again that their officers’ decisions are causing deaths, and have claimed that “lessons have been learned”.
It can only be true if they were trying to learn how to force more people to their deaths.