Saturday, 20 October 2012

Talking tough

Mark Hoban, the employment minister, is reported in the Telegraph as saying that the unemployed should "roll up their sleeves and find jobs".  It's because the new sanctions rules start tomorrow.  13 weeks, then 26 weeks then off altogether for 3 years, if you don't comply with the rules.  The article says that, "Those stripped of benefits would have to apply for special 'hardship payments' and if successful are paid 60% of the amount they were getting in benefits.
There's huge public support for this, of course, and people will be confirmed in their opinion by the very dodgy figures from the DWP.  Last year, "Jobcentre advisers took action against 495,000 claimants for not doing enough to find work."  Presumably that includes the people sanctioned not by the Jobcentre but at the behest of the WP providers.  Naturally, no one mentions the fact that a good number of those were completely unjustified.  We're told that the figure includes 72,000 "who had refused an offer of employment".  Really?  I very much doubt that it was as simple as that.
The DWP should ensure that there is a complete paper trail for every "sanction doubt" as it's called.  There should be a dated copy of every appointment letter sent out, and a log of all letters posted.  There should be a separate system for such "sanction doubts" when the provider or JC has accepted the explanation of the client.  At present far too much power is in the hands of people who are not equipped to wield it.
Hoban is determined to talk tough.  "I make no apology for this," he says.  For people who refuse to play be the rules it will be "a rude awakening".  Along with the bedroom tax, I assume.


  1. I do understand that their is a "contract" between the(myself) unemployed and the JCP/WP that i shall take all steps possible to seek employment,but is there not also an obligation(the reason that they exist) to supply training and support to enable me to attain this goal? Apparently not,as there is not enough money left for this,look at any WP website,training is mentioned but no specifics....Why? it does not exist..

  2. I suspect that this new idea of savagely (and probably often disproportionately) harsh sanctions will backfire on the Government in a myriad of ways.

    Short term, it may well seem politically expedient to reduce people’s Benefits to 60% of the amount that the claimant is receiving now.

    However, in that situation, what will prevent the sanctioned Benefits claimant from saying, “To hell with this Welfare nonsense. I’ll go and find half a dozen lodgers (or more) to share my home with me. The income from the lodgers will be higher, in aggregate, than the income I would have received in Benefits.”

    Also, in addition to ambulance chasing lawyers, will there now be an increase in lawyers chasing Benefits recovery for their clients? If the lawyer reckons that s/he can recover, say, £300 from the DWP for the client, what will prevent the lawyer and the client from agreeing to a 50/50 split of the eventual money – or worse? I use the word “lawyer” advisedly. There will be nothing to prevent an unqualified, unregulated, uninsured scribe from getting involved with this sort of activity – unconscionable though I, personally, would consider it to be. Someone else might consider this sort of thing to be no more disreputable than, say, a pawn shop.

    Imposing disproportionately harsh Benefits sanctions might also cause an increase in crime and an increase in the size of the black economy. £3 an hour cash-in-hand with no sort of employee-protection might seem attractive if the alternative is zero income.

    What will prevent a sanctioned Benefits claimant from walking away from, say, the Work Programme scheme and finding his/her own solutions to his/her financial problems in a different way – one that will not enrich the WP providers and will not enrich the Exchequer either?

    Whilst Ministers can claim that they are being “tough on Welfare” – allegedly unlike their political predecessors – it could be that the political predecessors concluded that it would be better to keep the problems where you can see them and therefore you can do something about them.

    We’ve even got Norman Tebbit complaining about this “dog of a coalition government” and saying that incompetence will be its downfall.

    Whatever one might think of Tebbit’s politics, he was an airline pilot for many years before he got involved with politics. That man has a shrewder understanding than many of how to keep people safe, I suspect.

  3. I agree there are unemployed out there who don't want a job, who get by selling stolen items, work cash in hand, have other family members paying for rent & bills & something should be done to stop this. I'm just terrified the job Ctre or WP may send a letter that may be important & I don't receive it, no one can prove I didn't receive it & then they may sanction me. With the new Housing Benefit coming in in April & 60% of benefits if sanctioned I could actually lose my home.

  4. The interim JSA regs align the sanctions regime more closely with that due under Universal Credit, with one significant exception - under UC, hardship payments will be recoverable - i.e. a loan, rather than a payment. Significant cause for concern about that, and the impact it's likely to have on the most vulnerable.

    It may also be worth keeping abreast of the UC Claimant Commitment - still a work in progress, but there appears to be considerable scope to load on additional requirements at the discretion of the individual's JCP adviser. From my experience, the majority of advisers won't abuse or make inappropriate use of this, but the possibility certainly exists.

    Finally, historian is absolutely correct in saying there needs to be accountability around the decisions. There is (approving) interest from DWP in particularly aggressive sanctions regimes being implemented by some JCPs, so having said above that my assumption is that most advisers will behave fairly, it's already clear that individual managers can have an impact on local directions and decisions.


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