First, there's an update on the court case against the nine former A4e employees charged with fraud. They were in court again yesterday and have all been bailed to return for further hearings at the Crown Court, seven of them on 25 November and two on 3 February.
Second, there's a report out from the Manchester CAB, entitled Punishing Poverty? A review of benefits sanctions and their impacts on clients and claimants. It can be accessed from here. It's packed with information which IDS, Freud and the rest should be compelled to read and answer questions on. One interesting fact:- in 2009 the number of claimants sanctioned was 139,000, in line with previous years; by 2011 it had jumped to 508,000. What the report doesn't mention is that we still haven't had the 2012 figures, and it's becoming ever clearer why not. Other points to note include the fact that under Universal Credit the "hardship payments" when someone is being punished become effectively loans, to be repaid from any future benefits. When did that little gem slip in? There's really too much to summarise in the report, but it backs up what many of us have been saying for some time.
Third, there are a couple of what the DWP calls "live running memos" which are of interest. One refers to changes and clarifications in provider guidance, and includes under "Raising a compliance doubt" the statement that "providers should be putting the contact details of the referring advisor on the WP08 referral." How odd (or perhaps not) that some have been doing it anonymously. The other memo is more serious in its implications, and can be found here. There has been a vigorous campaign to persuade people to withhold their consent to data sharing by refusing to sign the consent form. The aim, as the DWP recognises, is to prevent the WP provider from claiming a job outcome fee. Not any more. They have been pushing through the legal authority to contact employers without the client's permission. They say it's "to improve the delivery of our interventions". If you think you can still thwart this by not telling the Jobcentre where you're working, or even why you're signing off, I suspect the DWP can get the information through the tax office. It's another instance of this government regarding data protection, or any other legal rights, as not applying to those dependent on benefits.