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JobCentre Staff Face Losing Pay Rises For Not Meeting Sanctions Targets, Say PCS

February 3, 2015

Fresh evidence that job centre managers routinely put pressure on staff to impose financial penalties on benefit claimants has been submitted to the Commons work and pensions select committee inquiry into sanctions.

Documents produced by the PCS union at the committee’s request present a series of emails from Job Centre Plus managers which the union says show that staff who fail to instigate or approve enough sanctions are subject to performance reviews.

It says the emails reveal how staff are pressurised to meet sanctions targets, seemingly regardless of whether the penalty is appropriate. Staff who do not meet “expectations” are given a “must improve” rating by managers and in some cases are denied performance-based pay rises, it says.

A sanction involves the stopping of claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks – equivalent to almost £300 – as a penalty for breaching benefit rules and conditions, typically failure to look for work or attend jobcentre appointments.

The PCS disputes the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) claim that sanctions targets do not exist and that sanctions are only imposed as a “last resort”.

The Union states:

This is a Kafka-esque situation in which the department denies any targets as it penalises its own staff for not meeting these targets

The PCS says that in one region individual job centres were given colour ratings of red (bad) or green (good) depending on whether they had met targets to sanction job seekers, incapacity benefit claimants, and recipients of income support.

Staff attending a regional briefing last month at which the ratings were unveiled were told that “off-flows” (the removal of claimants from the unemployment register) would help deliver savings to the welfare budget.

According to the union, staff were told the internal publication of the ratings helped offices “see how their performance translates into monetary savings for the country”.

Other emails purport to show how staff are encouraged to use the “hassle factor” to “frustrate claimants off benefits” by imposing increasingly onerous claimant commitments on customers – typically, stringent targets for job searches or the imposition of daily signing-on requirements.

In one email a Job centre manager queries why only two claimants failed to meet their commitments from the 916 interviewed that month, and suggests tighter conditions must be imposed if official sanctions level expectations are to be met.

The employment minister Esther McVey is likely to be asked about the allegations when she appears before the select committee on Wednesday morning.

The PCS evidence follows separate written submissions to the committee by two former jobcentre employees who alleged that officials set up “hit squads” to target benefit claimants for sanctions and put pressure on them to sign off the dole.

Latest official figures show that 918,000 claimants were sanctioned between April 2013 and March 2014 for apparently breaching benefits rules. Sanctions rates have risen sharply since 2010, and soared since tighter conditions were introduced in Autumn 2012.

Job centre staff who fail to make sufficient sanctions referrals are placed on Performance Improvement Plans, which can result in them losing out on annual pay awards, the union claims.

It says it has been inundated by staff complaining about the pressure to sanction claimants and meet sanctions targets, which it says are

Skewing the role of our members in jobcentres and polluting the relationship between jobcentre advisors and claimants

A spokesman for the DWP said there was “nothing new” in the claims. He added:

In return for their benefits, claimants are asked to do everything they can to look for work, and more than 70 per cent say they are more likely to follow the rules if they know they risk having their benefits stopped.

With the record number of vacancies, it’s right that claimants are asked whether they are doing enough to find a job. There are no targets for sanctions.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. maria permalink
    February 3, 2015 6:30 pm

    this ideology will not solve anything though, it may improve the statistics, but it will be detrimental to every other area, you’ll have homeless, crises, public health crises, nobody will be in work so you wont get taxes there and then the rich are not paying them, a whole lot of people won’t be buying things so no VAT on that, big companies will have less people to do business with, there is only so much money in the world after all what are they going to do with it when they have it all, it will become a millstone around their neck, But that is another point altogether. There will be less Britons in the job market, because no one can stay on the dole that long, so companies wont get free work. So one is going to stick slave wages for long, so the only alternatives are, go on the street and beg or these people and there is enough of them to start helping each other instead of having paid jobs. Or it will drive people to Crime and send the message to people that crime pays and if it don’t work out you get bed and board, then with more criminals and less police you get mass breakouts. Or its the street and begging because lets face it begging is less degrading than going on JSA that’s a big problem with sanitation, so although disease starts with the poor it does end with them. Shop lifting food is up, so prices at the supermarket goes up. They wont have saved anything because they will spend more to fix all the problems they have caused. I am so dreadfully sorry I got a bit carried away, but it will happen, because everything I have said in the past has come true, even when there is little evidence at the time I say it, If things don’t change soon this what the government have done will turn on them, but it will effect us far sooner and far worse than it will do for them.

  2. jray permalink
    February 3, 2015 7:08 pm

    “Record number of vacancies” UJM and repeated positions that actually do not exist,some have been on for over 3 years..Sanctions used as a last resort?918.000 times?

    • maria permalink
      February 3, 2015 10:43 pm

      not at any one, time do jobs appear on UJM they are some of the same jobs but turned over every month, with a few bits of agency work that is new and genuine if you can call a few hours a week a job that is. There is hardly anything out there unless you are willing to work for free, then quite miraculously there is tonnes of work going. they think we are too stupid to realise.

  3. February 3, 2015 10:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

  4. February 3, 2015 11:04 pm

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics.

  5. Sasson Hann permalink
    February 4, 2015 8:53 am

    After years of watching these committee meetings I fail to see what they are for or what they actually achieve. If they don’t have any actual power to force change onto the DWP what is the point?

    All the DWP say about targets for sanctions is that they don’t exist. Similarly, when Smith is confronted with the numerous deaths due to sanctions and benefit cuts, all he says is that he doesn’t ‘believe’ them to be true and that they are purely ‘anecdotal’.

    When are we going to have a governmental system that is answerable for what amount to murder and other atrocious acts like the state of the NHS?

    No wonder people don’t vote.

  6. Another victim of the DWP permalink
    September 3, 2018 2:59 pm

    As my daughter has been trying to get JSA from Preston Jobcenter since splitting up with her partner in May, this doesn’t surprise me … It makes me fricking angry … Even more so when someone else I am close to applied for JSA at Blackpool and withing 3 weeks the amount was confirmed, and the dates it was being paid from … They even paid on time!!!

    The excuses given from Preston are myriad “We Have no record of your claim!” … What three times!!!, “You missed your appointment!!” … Yes I came in early, and was seen because I had a job interview! … Over and over gain, unfortunately they even refuse to accept Dated photographs of her in the JC with staff as proof!!

    The other side of this is that as she has no claim for JSA she is not entitled to Housing Benefit either! So in debt to the bank, In debt to the landlord, in debt to the utilities, she now has no option but to return home, in her words “A Failure” … I hate to think how bad this situation would be if we hadn’t wiped out our savings to help her out!

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