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JobCentre Insider: ‘Stitching Up Claimants Is All Part Of Job’

May 14, 2014

Last week Iain Duncan Smith met a whistle-blower who has worked for his Department for Work and Pensions for more than 20 years.

Giving the Secretary of State a dossier of evidence, the former Jobcentre Plus adviser told him of a “brutal and bullying” culture of “setting claimants up to fail”.

“The pressure to sanction customers was constant,” he said. “It led to people being stitched-up on a daily basis.”

The man wishes to be anonymous but gave his details to IDS, DWP minister Esther McVey and Neil Couling, Head of Jobcentre Plus, who also attended the meeting.

“We were constantly told ‘agitate the customer’ and that ‘any engagement with the customer is an opportunity to ­sanction’,” he told them.

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, the member of the DWP Select Committee who set up the meeting, has renewed her call for an inquiry into inappropriate sanctioning.

“I am deeply concerned that sanctions are being used to create the illusion the Government is bringing down unemployment,” she said.

Sanctions pre-date the Coalition as a way of ensuring benefit claimants, who include the jobless and sick and disabled people on Employment Support Allowance, attend appointments and apply for jobs. But under the Tory-led Government, they have soared – to 897,690 a year from the most recent data.

Sanctions can last from a couple of days to three years, and leave claimants destitute.

Abrahams says that ­sanctioned people only continue to be counted as unemployed as long as they continue to sign on.

The DWP says most people who receive a sanction remain on Jobseeker’s Allowance for the duration of their sanction and so will be included in the claimant count.

IDS and his department have repeatedly denied there are targets for sanctions.

“They don’t always call them targets, they call them ‘expectations’ that you will refer people’s benefits to the decision maker,” the whistle-blower says. “It’s the same thing.”

He claimed managers fraudulently altered claimants’ records, adding: “Managers would change people’s appointments without telling them. The appointment wouldn’t arrive in time in the post so they would miss it and have to be sanctioned. That’s fraud. The customer fails to attend. Their claim is closed. It’s called ‘off-flow’ – they come off the statistics. Unemployment has dropped. They are being stitched up.”

For 20 years, the whistle-blower loved his job as an adviser. He says: “It was really rewarding helping people into work.”

But he says the culture changed after the election of the Coalition.

“Customers were being deliberately and inappropriately targeted,” the whistle-blower says. “I would see people crying in frustration, knowing they have been stitched up. Yet my Jobcentre was held up as a shining example to others. One of the district managers came to congratulate us. He said, ‘I see these people hanging round the precinct, being lazy, drinking, taking drugs’. That was a very senior leader. Another said, ‘These people are taking your money’. There was a total disrespect for the customer.”

Advisers were told to “inconvenience” benefit claimants, he says. “I was told see them face to face, agitate them. ‘Let’s inconvenience the customer’, they said, ‘get on these people from day one’.

“They were treated appallingly, lots of conditions put on them. Many of them were vulnerable people with low self-esteem or coming back off sick. We were setting customers up to fail.

“If I do my job well and their claim is managed well, there should be fewer sanctions. Instead, good advisers were the ones who sanctioned more people. It was a daily mantra, ‘Have you sanctioned anyone?’             

I particularly remember a well-qualified father, he was desperate to work, with a wife and child to support. I was told to agitate him. They said, ‘Tell him he’s got to apply for factory and labouring jobs. Change his contract. If he doesn’t take the jobs, stop his benefit’. It was a trap.”           

When managers refused to listen, he became sick with stress. “My body just gave up,” he says. “I had high blood ­pressure, I was put on beta-blockers. I was in a state of physical collapse.”

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, says Esther McVey had agreed to a sanctions inquiry, but has since made a U-turn.

She says: “Just what are Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey trying to hide?

“This Government has developed a culture in which Jobcentre Plus advisers are expected to sanction claimants using unjust, and potentially fraudulent actions, in order get people off the dole.

“This creates the illusion the Government is bringing down unemployment.

“The last thing Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey want is for this uncomfortable truth to be uncovered.”

Last night a spokeswoman for the DWP said: “We take any allegations such as this ­seriously and will ­investigate.

“Our frontline staff work hard to support people off benefits and into work, and it’s only right that we ask claimants to do everything they can to look for work in return. Unemployment is falling, there are record numbers of people in jobs and there are 600,000 vacancies.”

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2014 12:03 pm

    Reblogged this on vicmart009 and commented:
    How & where do know such whistle-blowers ? I am intrigued.

  2. May 14, 2014 12:35 pm

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    Disgusting, I read these comments and I gringe in disbelief. Are Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVey living in the real world. They seem to be psychotic and patronising. When I listen to her on TV she comes across as if she is speaking to you like a child. And what comes out is utter crap, with lies and false statistics

  3. BombNumber20 permalink
    May 14, 2014 12:52 pm

    I can confirm that this has been standard practice for nearly 30 years at least, my first proper job was for the department of employment back when job centres were separate from the old DHSS (1989). Almost the first procedure I was taught was to send back new applicants forms unread and tell them they had made an omission/error, the reason being almost 40% didn’t re-apply.

  4. May 14, 2014 2:44 pm

    If you know this info you know how to play the game. If someone at the jobcentre starts to intimidate you then report them. YOU are paying their wages so if you complain about them they lose their job. They hate it when their tactics get sussed and then they will see you as a threat and treat you better. You need big balls for this though so make sure you have them. I did it, I complained about the ones who treated me unfairly and I made friends (well not friends but treated them with respect) with the ones who treated me ok. The ones who tried to treat me badly I exposed them and gave them the look of death. It always works. I find it true that this kind of behavior was adopted when the new coalition was elected. I felt this change . You can hide things form some people but a lot of us “KNOW” what is going on. Don’t worry, the new government will be in soon. Lets hope they treat people with more humane respect! Karma is only a bitch if you are!

  5. May 14, 2014 4:51 pm

    Reblogged this on elizapdushku's World.

  6. May 14, 2014 6:30 pm

    “Unemployment is falling, there are record numbers of people in jobs and *there are 600,000 vacancies*.”

    Yeah? 600k vacancies, for 2.33 MILLION people looking for a job!?

    DAMN YOU, TORY DWP MOUTHPIECE! GO BITE A PYLON, YOU BRAINLESS GOBSHITE, HOW BLOODY STUPID DO YOU THINK WE ARE?

  7. May 15, 2014 7:01 am

    My father used to work in what are now called ‘Job Centres’ back in the 60s and said that back then for every public announcement of ‘we are here to help you’ there were ten back-room instructions to ‘make life as difficult as possible’. Not much changes then…

  8. May 16, 2014 1:41 pm

    Great article and no surprise to anyone who signs on.

  9. May 24, 2014 4:35 am

    Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.

  10. May 24, 2014 11:12 am

    Reblogged this on Benefit tales.

  11. July 14, 2014 7:34 pm

    Reblogged this on Benny On Benefits.

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