Jobcentre Staff Broke Rules To Hit Targets
Jobcentre staff were told to meet targets for getting people off benefits by using “aggressive” tactics and breaking the rules, it has been claimed.
The shock allegations appear in a report on claimants who were taken off jobseekers’ allowance – only to be slipped cash from another fund to plug the gap.
Two Jobcentre workers were sacked in 2013 for misusing the Flexible Support Fund, designed for travel, childcare and clothes, to make up for five claimants’ lost benefits.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the employees in Plaistow, east London, were an exception and a review of 1,834 cases found little other misuse of the fund.
But the two workers said they behaved the way they did because “managers encouraged aggressive approaches” to meet targets, “including falsely signing claimants off benefits and using the Fund to cover gaps”, the National Audit Office report reveals.
The sacked workers’ local MP Stephen Timms warned they were victims of a culture of “great pressure” to get people off benefits “by hook or by crook”.
The Labour MP told the Mirror: “This report makes public what was going on as a result of the great pressure being imposed on Jobcentres by hook or by crook to get people off jobseekers’ allowance.
“I will not be happy until the two dedicated members of staff are reinstated.”
The report showed how eight of 66 staff in Plaistow Jobcentre claimed they were “under pressure” to meet new higher targets for getting people off benefits.
“The staff reported that, from March 2013, the culture in the jobcentre changed, with a greater focus on targets,” the NAO report said.
“Some staff were reported to have been placed on or threatened with being placed on action plans for performance improvement.”
When the DWP probed the claims it asked the district manager – who “recalled no evidence of management pressure or unapproved working practices.”
But the damning NAO report said: “Pressure to achieve targets inherently increases the risk of unapproved practices”.
New Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “The culture and leadership in the DWP are driving targets to get claimants ‘off-flow’ at all costs and this is having an adverse effect on the functioning of Jobcentre Plus as well as on claimants.
“I have repeatedly called for a change in DWP targets and the new Secretary of State should now listen.”
Gareth Fuller/PA Job Centre Plus branch
People are being forced off benefits
The DWP’s probe, on which the NAO report is based, did not investigate pressure to meet targets more widely because it looked at misuse of the Flexible Support Fund instead.
A DWP spokesman said: “The report contains no new evidence, and simply summarises the results of our own extensive investigation which found that this was an isolated incident in a network of over 700 jobcentres.
“Our work coaches do a great job supporting people into work and contributing to the record levels of employment.”