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Jobcentres Advisors Have To Sanction "three People A Week"

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/01/jobcentres-tricking-people-benefit-sanctions

Rising numbers of vulnerable jobseekers are being tricked into losing benefits amid growing pressure to meet welfare targets, a Jobcentre Plus adviser has told the Guardian.

A whistleblower said staff at his jobcentre were given targets of three people a week to refer for sanctions, where benefits are removed for up to six months. He said it was part of a "culture change" since last summer that had led to competition between advisers, teams and regional offices.

"Suddenly you're not helping somebody into sustainable employment, which is what you're employed to do," he said. "You're looking for ways to trick your customers into 'not looking for work'. You come up with many ways. I've seen dyslexic customers given written job searches, and when they don't produce them – what a surprise – they're sanctioned. The only target that anyone seems to care about is stopping people's money.

"'Saving the public purse' is the catchphrase that is used in our office … It is drummed home all the time – you're saving the public purse. Feel good about stopping someone's money, you've just saved your own pocket. Its a joke."

The claims came as the big businesses handed contracts to get the long term jobless into worktoday said the government should privatise jobcentres so that their firms could work with people who have been jobless for less than a year.

Statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show the total number of cases where people have lost their benefits has soared since the beginning of 2010 to 75,000 in October, the latest month available. The figures also reveal the number of claimants with registered disabilities being cut off has more than doubled to almost 20,000 over the same period.

This follows a change in the rules in April last year where sanctions were extended to claimants who were late for jobcentre interviews and other less serious offences.

When a claimant is sanctioned their jobseeker's allowance is stopped. They then have to apply for hardship payments, which are usually about half the allowance, or just over £30 a week. John, in Wigan, has been sanctioned for six months and says he has to rely on food parcels and must sleep on his friend's couch. "It's left me in a state of depression. I've lost weight, I'm tired … I feel like I've been attacked for no reason."

The whistleblower blamed the targets. "We were told suddenly that [finding someone to sanction] once a week wasn't good enough, we were far behind other offices, and we went to a meeting where they compared us with other offices, and said we now have to do three a week to catch up. Most staff go into work and they're thinking about it from moment one – who am I going to stop this week?"

The DWP denies there are specific targets, but the Guardian has seen email evidence of referral targets in one office, and the issue of targets has been raised by employees on online forums.

The DWP said: "To say that we are targeting vulnerable people is ridiculous. We only sanction people if they do not adhere to their agreement. We are massively expanding the help and support that jobseekers will receive to ensure that they get the right help and support to get into work. If someone is incapable of work, they will continue to receive unconditional support."

But the whistleblower said the policy hit the vulnerable instead of hardcore benefit cheats, who he said were a small group. "The young often fall into it, because they haven't been there long enough, they are generally a major target. The uneducated are another major target. I've seen people with … seriously low educational standards and it's easy to exploit them."

He said staff had different ways to ensure they could stop benefits for a set amount of people. "So, for example, if you want someone to diversify – they're an electrician or a plumber, they may not want to go into call centres or something. What you do is keep promoting such and such a job, and you pressure them into taking it off you, the piece of paper. Then in two weeks you look at the system, you ask them if they applied for it … they say no – you stop their money for six months.

"You very rarely see the hardcore taken because they know the forms – they know it better than the staff, the system."

Shirley Cramer of the charity Dyslexia Action warned that the true impact on people with learning difficulties was likely to be higher because in many cases it was a hidden disability. "Because we know there are large numbers of them, and that they are hidden, and that they are over-represented in disadvantaged groups, they are very much at risk. And we know that with a bit of help they can be terrific employees."

Martin John, national officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union, said ministers had demanded a tougher approach since the general election. "We are against the use of targets for labour market sanctions, and are worried about the financial impact on people."

Citizens Advice has reported a significant rise in clients who have had their benefits cut. Andy Robertson, a caseworker in South Tyneside, an area with 13% unemployment, has a huge pile of paperwork for appeals, and says his casework has more than doubled in the last year. "What's happening at the moment is possibly the worst thing I've ever seen with regard to practice from the DWP. Clients seem to be getting sanctioned for next to nothing," he said.

Robertson worked for eight years as an adviser and financial assessor at jobcentres. He has also seen the changes affect many vulnerable clients, such as those with dyslexia or mental health problems. "Advisers were previously exercising their discretion … now the client-adviser balance doesn't seem to exist any more."

Yvonne Fovargue, the Labour MP for Makerfield, raised the issue of sanctioning in parliament during a reading of the new Welfare Reform Act. She is worried that at a time when funding to support groups such as Citizens Advice is being cut, an even stricter regime is being introduced.

Fovargue said the situation would only get worse with the drive to bring people off incapacity benefit and on to the jobseeker's allowance, where they are suddenly exposed to these sanctions.

The whistleblower also thinks there will be an impact. "A lot of them haven't been in work for a number of years. So I'm not expecting them to understand the system … which will make for easy sanctions.

"This cannot be right that we are using a department that's supposed to help people into work to stop them getting benefit that a lot of them are entitled to."

In Wigan, John said he first found out he had been sanctioned when the money did not appear in his account on the usual day. His jobcentre told him it was because he had missed the deadline for three jobs. He said his Jobcentre adviser said he would send application forms in the post, but they arrived too late. "It's outrageous … to leave someone with no money for six months. It's totally hindered my jobsearching, I spend all of my time dealing with these problems now."

The whistleblower says his office has been told there is no more money for back to work training from April. "From April, we offer no provision … nothing, no training course, nothing. The funding ends at the end of March.

"[Now] your office can shine through one of two targets. You can either shine through getting people into work, but that's really difficult. Or you can stop their money, and that's really easy."

Case study John Robson, 53, South Shields

"It never seems to go away. Every day you're thinking: 'I haven't got a letter today, so obviously there isn't a sanction going against me.' Another day there's a brown envelope from the DWP and you think: 'What's this for?' There's always that cloud hanging over you."

Robson was made redundant from his job as a delivery driver 13 months ago. "I was 17 when I started work so I've been working for 35 years. I'm not Jack the lad who's never been in a job and is trying to con the government. I want to work, I just can't get a job.

"You try your best, and the minute you do something wrong, they're on you like a ton of bricks."

Robson has been sanctioned three times. First he was ill and missed a jobcentre appointment. Next he was sanctioned for not applying for one job. "I was sure I had applied for it but I couldn't find evidence that I had. If you apply for job after job after job, and you get nowhere with it, you can lose track."

Robson turned to Citizens Advice for help. He won the appeal, but his financial situation remains precarious. "It reached the point where I'd visit my mother and sit there for hours just to get warm, use her shower and cooker, because I couldn't afford the gas and electricity."

Recently he was sanctioned for a week, again for not applying for a job. "Because of all the hassle with them I thought, 'What the hell,' and just gave up on it. I shouldn't have accepted it, but you get ground down so much. So many things go wrong when you're unemployed, and you just get so disheartened.

"It's actually quite frightening being out there. And nobody seems to care. It's like a lot of things of life – things are set in place by people who don't actually experience it themselves."

Hmmm...I know its the Grauniad, but if you've been asked to apply for a suitable job, and you've said that you haven't, then its not really a surprise that they'll sanction you...I see that those who fill out forms wrong will get a fifty quid fine...is there any help to help them get it filled out, seeing as that help is getting cut?

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I've tried really hard to get Last Post By on every front page thread - but this topic has flummoxed me for a suitable retort. :(

Theres a fine line between being stood on the shore like an idiot and just being stood there with a bit of wood in your hands.

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Theres a fine line between being stood on the shore like an idiot and just being stood there with a bit of wood in your hands.

things must be getting bad thepoor attacked again.

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I got legal aid to sort my claim out, this is just stupid. The damage it does to your job seeking is huge, you spend all your time dealing with the JC, and forget covering travel costs. Fair play to the JC employees, most of them hate this.

I was sanctioned by being accused of not living in the UK, spectacular seeing as I had been on contributions based JSA.

They have stopped weekly signings and there is no longer any support offered whatsoever.

Jobs I have been handed are often scam companies who scrape jobs from the job sites and upload them to the JC boards with a premium rate number. I am consistently given accounting jobs that I am not qualified for because they don't know what an account manager is.

It is an absolute mess and getting worse, none of their actions address benefit cheats.

People hitting this system for the first time are in for a shock.

I know of a guy who was sanctioned for being too quiet at a back to work session with twenty others.

It is hard not to get the impression they want to destroy you rather than see you back in work. I don't think encouragement and respect us too much to ask.

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Do we need Job Centres?

Every job I've had was advertised in the local paper.

I've never used the JC.

When my daughter was looking for work, we went to the JC and the two, two mark you, guys at the welcome desk said go home and look at the JC list on the internet.

This we did and all she could get was some part time crappy cleaning jobs. My experience with a JC that it was a complete waste of time.

Fortunately she went to a proper job centre, called the Armed forces recruitment office, and now has a cracking job.

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The usual rubbish from the Guardian "vulnerable people being tricked out of their benefits by the nasty Tories".

I found the JobCentre to be an amazingly easy-going bureaucracy, all you have to do is apply for three jobs a week and turn up for the occasional workshop. Of course there are some idiots who can`t even do that and, as usual, they blame everyone but themselves.

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Do we need Job Centres?

Every job I've had was advertised in the local paper.

I've never used the JC.

When my daughter was looking for work, we went to the JC and the two, two mark you, guys at the welcome desk said go home and look at the JC list on the internet.

This we did and all she could get was some part time crappy cleaning jobs. My experience with a JC that it was a complete waste of time.

Fortunately she went to a proper job centre, called the Armed forces recruitment office, and now has a cracking job.

If you know the job market in your line then you will be far more able to sort yourself out with work than a JC adviser who, as noted above, is unlikely to know the difference between an account manager and an accountant. As I wouldn't know what the different types of engineer do.

But you do need to go to the JC to get your benefits, I'm always straight down there for my contributions-based tax refund. Half an hour of pointless conversation a fortnight for £120 is a decent enough hourly rate.

Edited by Frank Hovis

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'Saving the public purse' is the catchphrase that is used in our office … It is drummed home all the time – you're saving the public purse. Feel good about stopping someone's money, you've just saved your own pocket. Its a joke

Hmmm.

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I got legal aid to sort my claim out, this is just stupid. The damage it does to your job seeking is huge, you spend all your time dealing with the JC, and forget covering travel costs. Fair play to the JC employees, most of them hate this.

I was sanctioned by being accused of not living in the UK, spectacular seeing as I had been on contributions based JSA.

They have stopped weekly signings and there is no longer any support offered whatsoever.

Jobs I have been handed are often scam companies who scrape jobs from the job sites and upload them to the JC boards with a premium rate number. I am consistently given accounting jobs that I am not qualified for because they don't know what an account manager is.

It is an absolute mess and getting worse, none of their actions address benefit cheats.

People hitting this system for the first time are in for a shock.

I know of a guy who was sanctioned for being too quiet at a back to work session with twenty others.

It is hard not to get the impression they want to destroy you rather than see you back in work. I don't think encouragement and respect us too much to ask.

typical Government cure....if something happens, sanction the tools used to carry out the misdeed.

For example, If a greivance is made because during the course of the week, half a dozen claimants are 5 minutes late, wasting the valuable resources of the JC ( their time) then the sanction is to fine everyone who is late, regardless of reason.

If a naughty boy in class disrupts the learning, the whole class is kept behind.

If someone shoots another, then guns are banned.

the problem is not the tool, the class the individual lateness...it is the purpose behind the problem....the lateness the new roadworks in town, the naughty boy his abusive mother, the shooting the criminals with guns.

The sanction stops none of the issues, but is a tyranny for all.

Course, the front line staff confronted with a blank slot, could slip someone else in, or start checking bogus jobs, or help a behind with work colleague.

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Over the years there are regular reports and even "whistleblower" reports of the job centres getting "tough" and I guess some of them are true. Maybe it's the Big JumpThrough Hoops Unless You're A Banker Society.

The money saved on any job centre sanctions is as nothing, indeed less than nothing, compared to the £trillions of (taxpayers) bailouts of the banks who got the bailout money on the nod and I dare say tens of thousands of bank employees would have had to suffer the job centre sanctions if it weren't for the bailouts. Of course most of them had no say in the the banks policies either but they've mostly kept their jobs so far apart from offshoring and so on which would have happened anyway.

Mind you Cleggy said a couple of days ago that he is going to get tough on the banks. Yes he is, he said so just recently before the May elections.

Edited by billybong

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The problem I have with this story is the target of three people a week. People either deserve to be sanctioned or they don't.

Its down to the "discretion" of the advisor....A dyslexic person filling in a form incorrectly would in theory be a sanctionable offence..

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I can't be bothered to reply!

Oh well!

When are they going to understand that there are 2,500,000 + unemployed, its musical chairs. One man one job, you can't get twenty men in to one job, it doesn't work. All that happens is hundreds apply for each job.

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I can't be bothered to reply!

Oh well!

When are they going to understand that there are 2,500,000 + unemployed, its musical chairs. One man one job, you can't get twenty men in to one job, it doesn't work. All that happens is hundreds apply for each job.

The benefits sytem is there for two main reasons -

1) To stop rioting for change

2_ To encourage the idea that once you'e been stripped of access to land, capital, education*, professions and knowledge not being able to make your life work is entirely your own fault.

*Actual education, not the utter shit they do in schools.

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Its not down to the discretion of the advisor if there is a set target to be achieved.

In this sort of system I would hope for the appointment to sign on would be a Tuesday,Wednesday or Thursday. If you have an appointment on a Monday the advisors are going to be looking at getting of to a good start and if it is Friday and they are behind they will sanction anyone to get target.

This then ignores the fact that the appeals process costs more than actually paying the benefit.

Sooner we move to a citizens income the better.

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Its not down to the discretion of the advisor if there is a set target to be achieved.

In this sort of system I would hope for the appointment to sign on would be a Tuesday,Wednesday or Thursday. If you have an appointment on a Monday the advisors are going to be looking at getting of to a good start and if it is Friday and they are behind they will sanction anyone to get target.

This then ignores the fact that the appeals process costs more than actually paying the benefit.

Sooner we move to a citizens income the better.

It is..they can decide whether you have broken their rules, and can sanction you from one to up to 26 weeks......there will be over zealous advisors that will sanction left right and centre.......you do also have those advisors who do like lording it over their "customers"...I've met a few. You just have to stick up for yourself...

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I've seen dyslexic customers given written job searches, and when they don't produce them – what a surprise – they're sanctioned

I'm not sure what they mean by being given written job searches, if it's the same as everyone else IE you write down how you are looking for work

then failing to bring it to interview is your own fault, dyslexia would have nothing to do with it. It's just being lazy.,

A person with DRD may have trouble rhyming and separating sounds that make up spoken words. These abilities appear to be critical in the process of learning to read. A child's initial reading skills are based on word recognition, which involves being able to separate out the sounds in words and match them with letters and groups of letters.

Because people with DRD have difficulty connecting the sounds of language to the letters of words, they may have difficulty understanding sentences.

True dyslexia is much broader than simply confusing or transposing letters, for example mistaking ”b” and “d.".

In general, symptoms of DRD may include:

*

Difficulty determining the meaning (idea content) of a simple sentence

*

Difficulty learning to recognize written words

*

Difficulty rhyming

DRD may occur in combination with writing or math learning problems.

If you are unable to write anything down at all they would understand, if you make mistakes transposing letters or numbers that is also ok.

They will even accept recordings of your job search, as long as there is a record you can sign against.

Not bringing your job search record is because you've not bothered to do so.

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I'm not sure what they mean by being given written job searches, if it's the same as everyone else IE you write down how you are looking for work

then failing to bring it to interview is your own fault, dyslexia would have nothing to do with it. It's just being lazy.,

If you are unable to write anything down at all they would understand, if you make mistakes transposing letters or numbers that is also ok.

They will even accept recordings of your job search, as long as there is a record you can sign against.

Not bringing your job search record is because you've not bothered to do so.

..they seem to be happy with a verbal job search record...

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I got legal aid to sort my claim out, this is just stupid. The damage it does to your job seeking is huge, you spend all your time dealing with the JC, and forget covering travel costs. Fair play to the JC employees, most of them hate this.

I was sanctioned by being accused of not living in the UK, spectacular seeing as I had been on contributions based JSA.

They have stopped weekly signings and there is no longer any support offered whatsoever.

Jobs I have been handed are often scam companies who scrape jobs from the job sites and upload them to the JC boards with a premium rate number. I am consistently given accounting jobs that I am not qualified for because they don't know what an account manager is.

It is an absolute mess and getting worse, none of their actions address benefit cheats.

People hitting this system for the first time are in for a shock.

I know of a guy who was sanctioned for being too quiet at a back to work session with twenty others.

It is hard not to get the impression they want to destroy you rather than see you back in work. I don't think encouragement and respect us too much to ask.

Well, I had thought that if I lose my part-time job I'd just go straight onto JSA for 6 months, your post convinces me that I'm better off as I am. I was often on the dole in the eighties and had a few months on the dole about 6 years ago (after being abroad!) but things seem to have changed since this lot of Tories got in.

What are they trying to do? Obviously 5 into 1 won't go.

Anyway, good luck Tonkers.

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Well, I had thought that if I lose my part-time job I'd just go straight onto JSA for 6 months, your post convinces me that I'm better off as I am. I was often on the dole in the eighties and had a few months on the dole about 6 years ago (after being abroad!) but things seem to have changed since this lot of Tories got in.

What are they trying to do? Obviously 5 into 1 won't go.

Anyway, good luck Tonkers.

Translation: I had thought that if I lose my part-time job I'd just kick back at someone elses expense for a while and enjoy an extended holiday because I could. Now that the system has changed that doesn't seem so attractive so I'll try to remain in work.

Good!!

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Translation: I had thought that if I lose my part-time job I'd just kick back at someone elses expense for a while and enjoy an extended holiday because I could. Now that the system has changed that doesn't seem so attractive so I'll try to remain in work.

Good!!

It's not good.

Most living is cheap as chips, the average working year should be about 100 days, maybe less.

The only reason people have to work so long is to pay the rentiers off.

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