Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The sanctions report

Matthew Oakley's report is out.  You can read it here.  His brief was to look at how the sanctions system was working amongst certain groups; in particular at the communications with, and understanding by, claimants.  It was said from the beginning that the remit was far too narrow, a cosmetic exercise to justify the DWP but ignoring the real issues.  And it was said that Oakley was the wrong person to do it.  If you read the Foreword to the report you do get the impression that Oakley dutifully applauds the system.  But in fact he has gone beyond his brief, and there are some very important points in the document.
The Financial Times wrote a fair piece, highlighting the poor way in which the DWP communicates with claimants who have been sanctioned.  They also got a quote out of Esther McVey: "I have already started to make improvements ..."  Far be it from me to call anyone a liar, but I doubt that this is true.  The Guardian went with the fact that "Benefit sanctions hit most vulnerable people the hardest", sending out unintelligible letters, and not telling people about the availability of hardship payments unless they asked.  There's also a very significant observation from the report: "It also revealed serious flaws in how sanctions were imposed, with Work Programme providers required to send participants for sanctions when they knew they had done nothing wrong, leaving 'claimants … sent from pillar to post'".  This is the first time I've seen this fact in print.  The Guardian produced an update on this article this evening to take account of the fact that the government is to "overhaul the way it treats benefit recipients threatened by sanctions".  This must be based on the DWP's press release, which doesn't use the word overhaul and promises very little.  It does provide a quote from McVey which is probably made up by the DWP Press Office.  (You can play meaningless platitude bingo with it.)  The BBC website has a very careful piece which isn't worth reading.  And from Iain Duncan Smith, not a peep.  
This report is, of course, far from sufficient.  As the TUC has said, there must be a much wider review into the sanctions regime.  Perhaps it should look at this case reported today in a Hertfordshire local paper.  It's as bad as it gets.


  1. Anyone seen the news that Remploy being privatised

  2. The death of David Clapson is a damming indictment of the current sanctions regime.

    David was someone who had worked AND served his country in some of the worst post-war battle conditions. Someone who had worked hard and paid his way, yet he had his benefit stopped and died as a consequence.

    The letter sent by Claire McGuckin, head of benefit centres, to the family is not only unsympathetic but reveals a fundamental problem with the sanction system.

    In the letter she defends the decision to stop David's benefit by saying 'that the correct administrative procedure was followed'.

    What McGuckin fails to appreciate is that it is the CONSEQUENCE of this procedure that led to the death of David and it is flawed if it leaves people without food.

    The defence that McGuckin uses is very damaging as it will only encourage FURTHER benefit conditionality if the DWP can hide behind the anonymity of 'administrative procedure' and avoid responsibility for their actions.

    1. I should add that as part of her excuse she claimed that the David could have accessed the hardship fund but as the above report highlights claimants are NOT being told of this option by staff i.e. benefit centres are NOT following correct 'procedure'!!!

  3. This is supposed to be a civilised country! Why is this happening? and being allowed to go on in Britain today?

    1. The Daily Mirror reports Nick Clegg's Youth Contract will no longer be funded from August.


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".