Thursday, 30 January 2014

The future of JCP

You may have missed it.  It certainly wasn't well publicised.  But then the report into Jobcentre Plus by the Work & Pensions select committee wasn't going to excite the media.  You can read the full report and a good summary on parliament's own site.  The few news sites which did pick this up highlighted the judgement that jobcentres assess claimants "haphazardly" (BBC) and that "Jobcentre staff are sanctioning benefits claimants inappropriately for minor infringements" (the Independent).
One of the most important of its recommendations was that JCP should continue to be a public service, i.e. not outsourced.  The committee also picked up on the fact that its targets are focussed on getting people off benefits, rather than into work.  They recognise that the two aims are different, and the focus should be on helping claimants to find work, not pushing them off the books by means of sanctions or putting them on another benefit.  The jobcentres often don't know enough about the "barriers" which individuals face, such as homelessness.
The report is scathing about sanctions.  The committee wants an independent enquiry into the regime, as well as the urgent monitoring of the financial hardship they cause.  They say that data on the numbers "signposted" by JCP to food banks should be collected and published (Iain Duncan Smith has refused to do this).  And the stress on conditionality must be balanced by greater efforts to actually help and support people.
Finally, they point to the increasing work-load being pushed onto the jobcentres (including making people on in-work benefits sign on), with no indication of what extra resources will be put in to cope with it.
It's a good report.  What a pity that it will be ignored.

We've all noticed the rubbish uttered by the anonymous DWP spokeswoman (or, occasionally, spokesperson) in response to media stories.  None of the media ever name her, although they will all know who she is.  She is part of a sinister trend in the DWP, well covered by Simon Barrow on the Ekklesia website, for people who are paid to be neutral civil servants to, instead, play a party-political role in the way it churns out propaganda.  Since this is so obvious, there is no reason to maintain the anonymity.

Those getting by on £71 a week JSA will have been amused (or not) to read about the £75,000 of taxpayers' money spent on media training for Lord Freud and others at the DWP.  The Huffington Post lists what it calls "the 5 crassest statements made by ministers" at the DWP, to show how much they need this training.  Alternatively, of course, you could just sack them and hire somebody competent.


  1. Having commented earlier about being "suspended" rather than sanctioned for failing to respond to a letter from the DWP regarding who I live with,I have finally gotten some answers. After numerous phone calls and being told to wait a week for the form I filled out at the JCP to be posted internally(glad I got a copy and had it time stamped) they have lost it,they have sent another to me,but I have still not received it,I asked what address have you been sending it too? The reply was "What address are you using" I informed them that I have a permanent C/O and a temp living address,they checked and it was neither,I asked what address had it been sent too "Sorry,we cannot give it to you due to the data protection"

    I remained calm and polite,I asked if it was possible if a mistake had been made? "I will refer this to an adviser and call you back" I was in the middle of signing on when they rang,I was not able to answer,but will check the Bank in the morning,on a side note,in the Jan 23 edition of the Telegraph our favourite IDS stated that those that have signed the Claimant Commitment have actually signed a contract,on the upside if you need to get a drivers license in order to improve your chances of employment the DWP will pay for lessons and costs,I mentioned this today and was told "No Way" I produced the article and now have an appointment to see a manager about funding,will it actually happen? 20/80 chance but worth a try.

    1. Part 2 This morning I checked my voice mail,I now have to resubmit the paper work through the job centre,this will take an additional 10 working days,frustrated I called the 0845# I calmly explained the situation,it has been 29 days,the system shows that my JCP has received the forms,after a few seconds the adviser said "This makes no sense,if I confirm your details as a change of details you should be sorted" 5 minutes done,one small set back,I was called back and informed that as it was a suspended action it will take 3 days to hit the bank. Very helpful adviser,but even she was unsure why this wasn't done right off the bat.

  2. One problem is that little or no distinction is made by the government between someone finding a job and someone else simply not claiming for whatever reason. Hence the rush to ramp up the number of sanctions and hit targets. Despite what the odious and dim witted Smith may deny.

    As for the outsourcing of JCP, I think it will happen in 5 - 10 years time. Let's face it. This government happily privatised Royal Mail despite opposition from Labour, the CWU and much of the public, privatisation still went through.

    JCP is different. It is increasing seen as dysfunctional and unfit for purpose by many if not most of its users. And the working public hope never to have to ever use it. So this or a future government will have little to lose should they outsource JCP to G4s, Serco or Capita.

    1. Ironic that some of those who have spent at leadt 2 years out of work and on the work programme end up back at the Job Centre. When I was seeking work I couldn't get the help as it seemed to me they could not grasp the fact I am partialy sighted - I wear eye glasses but they cannot fully correct my vision. As I have said before realy glad I do not sign on. The sooner the WP finishes (2017?) The better.

  3. It seems that the Public Accounts Committee are expecting/hoping to see IDS at 4.30pm on Monday 03 Feb 2014.

    IFS and Mike Driver (the DWP’s Finance Director) managed to fib and fudge their way through a similar session with the Work and Pensions Committee recently. However, Anne Begg MP is nowhere near as punchy as Margaret Hodge MP, so it’ll be interesting see whether or not IDS bottles out of his date with Mrs Hodge.

    Meanwhile, the £75,000 spent on “media training” for Lawd Fraud & others seems to have been a deliberate (and fruit-free) waste of the dosh.

    It appears that Richard Caseby, the ex-Editor of he Sunday Times and the Sun has agreed to become the DWP’s Director of Communications wef 03 March 2014:

    So in future we’ll all know who to blame for the party political ideological but fact-free garbage spouted by the DWP’s anonymous “spokesperson.”

    1. It's the Work and Pensions Committee, not PAC. IDS in front of Margaret Hodge would be interesting to see - whilst W&P is fairly effective, it doesn't go after people in the way that (say) Hodge and Andrew Tyrie of the Treasury Committee do.

      Returning to the report, at least some of it will be actioned. DWP are looking for ways that they can look at destinations and outcomes rather than benefit off-flow, which will be useful and illuminating.

      Finally, I'd agree with iMatt that privatising something that the public don't hold in high regard anyway looks pretty doable. The public might not like A4e, Serco, G4S et al very much either, but if they'll tolerate Royal Mail and the NHS being hawked off, JCP looks easy.

  4. They are wasting £millions of taxpayer's money by unlawfully handing out sanctions...

    Social Entitlement Tribunal Decisions

    Not to mention months of people's time

  5. I was at the JC today and overheard two staff employees chuckling to each other about benefit sanctions as though they were nothing more than student pranks. Disgusting. Now I was on the receiving end of one of these unpleasant members of staff at the JCP a couple of months back. I made a complaint against her but I wish I was wearing a pair of those spectacles with the secret in-built voice recorder at the time. And today I met the woman who issued me the sanction. She was a typical JCP lacky, brown leather boots, flowery dress and an upturned nose. I hope she is proud of herself. Sorrow will come in the end to these people. The sooner the better!


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