Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sanctions and lies

The Work & Pensions Select Committee has launched its inquiry into benefit sanctions, something which owes a lot to the tireless pressure of Debbie Abrahams MP.  But if you read its terms of reference (here) you notice some important things missing.  First there's the actual process of sanctioning; the automatic stoppage of money which can't be reversed if it's found to be a mistake.  This is crucial to expose the lie that sanctions are only ever used as a last resort.  And then there's the question of arbitrary sanctions applied by JC or WP staff just because they feel like it or have targets to meet.  The inquiry must hear from victims and whistle-blowers or it's pointless.  The page makes it clear that they can't investigate individual cases, but don't let that stop you if you want to submit evidence.

It gets wearisome to report on Iain Duncan Smith's character and lies.  He knows that he is untouchable and his arrogance has grown to monstrous proportions - as has his rudeness.  There was an incident this week in the House of Commons which demonstrated what one MP called his boorishness.  He had remarked that Rachel Reeves MP, his Labour shadow, "couldn't be bothered" to turn up to vote in a particular debate.  She raised a point of order demanding an apology; he had no knowledge, she said, of why she wasn't there.  IDS showed his contempt by saying something about her being in Rochester (for the by-election).  Reeves denied this and repeated her demand for an apology.  She didn't get one, of course.  This wretched man just smirked.

Then there were the "angry scenes" described in the Mirror at the Work & Pensions Select Committee's hearing yesterday.  Now, I missed this part of IDS's "evidence".  I'd stuck it out for an hour, but couldn't bear any more.  So I didn't hear Debbie Abrahams' ask him about the numbers not included in the unemployment figures because they were sanctioned.  According to an Oxford University study this figure could be as high as 500,000.  IDS's response was that this was "ludicrous".  Ms Abrahams said, "People have died after being sanctioned, Minister."  The response?  "No, I don't agree with that."  The last line of the Mirror's story is, "A DWP spokesman dismissed the study, saying 'It looks to be partially based on unreliable data.'"

This disgusting man and his disgusting department put out a press release today which claims: "More than 12,000 households have made the choice to move into work or stop claiming Housing Benefit because of the benefit cap".  He's been warned about this before; it's a complete falsification of the data.  But the London Evening Standard allows him space to amplify this claim, with the arrogance of the seriously deluded.

Ironically, the Public Accounts Committee reported today on the "scandalous" failure of the Work Programme to help ESA claimants.  The Independent covers this.  It also ends with a meaningless quote from "a DWP spokesman".  I do wish papers would stop giving space to this person.

Nothing is going to change.  And if there is a Conservative majority next May it will get much, much worse.


  1. I did watch the entire meeting,Abrahams was very blunt,IDS referred twice that he had sent over the "Figures" the body language was strange though. I may of read it wrong,but I think the point that she was trying to make was that the claimant count had fallen by 1.8 million while at the same time 1.2 million sanctions had been given out and were these figures combined (1.8-1.2= 600k) and out of the 1.8 how many actually found a job. IDS should of taken up boxing,he ducks and dives like a pro,after 32 "I Believes" I gave up counting!

  2. His continual reprisal of the phrase 'I believe..' when challenged to provide evidence to support his claims shows that he is an intellectual vacuum. If you cannot provide empirical evidence to support your argument then it has no substance.

    He and the Tories are relying on the ignorance and apathy of the British public regarding unemployment.

  3. The whole of the W&P Cttee’s sesh with IDS on Bonfire Day 2014 is here:

    There wasn’t really a row between Debbie Abrahams and IDS. IDS merely read out a long list of statistical numbers. I think the rough gist of these numbers was that about 1.2 million people are claiming Benefits and around 66,000 are being sanctioned each month. No doubt Ms Abrahams will investigate IDS’ claimed stats to within an inch of their lives during the Cttee’s forthcoming Inquiry, so there’d have been no point in her snarling at IDS the other day.

    IDS and Devereux were both evasive when they were asked what the people who have “flowed” off Benefits are actually doing? Obviously, the truth is that the DWP has no idea what these people are doing unless they are reappearing rapidly in HMRC’s own data via PAYE. It will probably be impossible for the govt to discover what the “missing ones” are actually doing.

    In any case, the pollies have bigger fish to fry at present, what with quarrelling with the EC and trying to keep UKIP at bay!

    1. I wouldn't be so dismissive of Ms Abrahams. It's her persistence which has brought this into the public eye.

  4. Abrahams/Hodge and Dame Anne Begg seem to be the only ones that see right through IDS/McVey/Deveraux and Driver

    1. And yet they are powerless to do anything or get rid of him.

    2. True - but they have exposed him as a charlatan.

      IDS claims that he has the interests of the unemployed at heart, yet the persistent questioning of Abrahams/Hodge re sanctioning has revealed that he only wishes to punish them.

  5. I noticed two things today which I think are relevant to this blog.

    The first thing was an interesting piece on today’s “You & Yours” radio prog, saying that the Work and Pensions Committee are particularly interested in finding out why so many disabled Benefits claimants are being sanctioned. The iPlayer link is here:

    The second item was about a company called Challenge Consultants, describing a concept known as “Unconscious Bias.” Their website is here:

    I wonder about the extent to which Unconscious Bias is causing so many disabled people to have their Benefits sanctioned?

    1. Hi Judy
      I would be interested in your legal viewpoint on this report:

    2. I don't know what Judi thinks, but I would suspect that this will have very little, if any, effect. The DWP will automatically appeal it, right to the top. Then they will put some fudge in place which is meant to cover the particular circumstance - someone with mental health problems.

    3. Hi Gissajob

      Do we know the details as yet of the Tribunal’s eventual decision in Mr Hart’s case?

      Please note that, legally, a Tribunal’s decision is not binding on a future Tribunal or on the court. Therefore if a Tribunal’s decision eventually causes the Govt to alter the roolz, the roolz-change has only happened because the relevant pollies have made and then caused the implementation of the roolz-change as a matter of political policy. (Or, more likely nowadays, political expediency.)

      Whatever happens about and flowing from Mr Hart, the rest of us can be assured that some of the largest tankers afloat carry snake-oil and the DWP are one of snake-oil’s most assiduous purchasers.

  6. A4e has given me nothing but help over the years. Honestly, I cannot see what the problem is with you guys. I have been given advice on CV creation, timekeeping, applications and more.

    What you have done to discredit the fabulous work done by A4e staff is nothing short of shameful! I guess being jealous of Emma Harrison goes a long way, huh?

    I am now a manager at a firm A4e got me into as a trainee 5 years ago. I bet you'll not have the courage to publish this response!

    1. Well bully for you!
      "I have been given advice on CV creation, timekeeping, applications and more." Not everyone needs the very basic advice forced, on pain of sanctions, upon unwilling recipients by A4e (amongst others). As a professional person with many years experience I found everything on offer from them inappropriate and a complete waste of time.
      What was not available was provision of, or signposting to, relevant training. Apparently there was no budget for that.
      I am all in favour of genuine help but the Work Programme and A4e were not it for me.

    2. The help they've given me has come and gone over the years, nothing quite as bad as what some people have experienced, but nothing special either.

      The discrediting of A4e that Historian and other posters have done is only what is in the press and what others have experienced and there is nothing entirely wrong with that. In fact, the majority of the stuff that Historian has posted in recent entries has been about IDS and how his department's actions has affected many people. I see nothing wrong with simply highlighting that.

  7. @Paddy

    Historian has not made any assertions about A4e that are incapable of independent, sceptical verification. If Historian ever did so, I would cease to follow this blog, period.

    My own only experience of A4e was when I was conscripted to them for the Work Programme between Ayg 2011 and Aug 2013. I happen to be a very highly trained and qualified professional person, which fact makes me seriously over-qualified in a low-skill, low-wage economy. Since I am also now in my late 50s, a crude attempt to “dumb down” my CV would produce nothing except a work of pure fiction, aka a Work of Art. As far as I know, the Work Programme scheme never set out to try to turn me into a clone of JK Rowling.

    By all means praise A4e as much as you like but kindly desist from implied criticism of others in the process.

    Thank you


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