Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sanctions are good for you!

There's an excellent article on the Guardian's website today.  But what really caught my attention was a comment underneath it:
"In an effort to counter some of the bad press that the new tougher benefit conditionality and harsher sanctions have received the DWP intranet carried a 'good news' story last week.
8 case studies were published detailing the thanks that had been given to various staff for sanctioning or threatening to sanction jobseekers. A typical comment was something along the lines of 'Getting sanctioned was my wake up call. It was the kick up the backside I needed to understand that looking for work was my full-time job. I now have a part-time job in a fast food restaurant and I take extra hours as and when I can get them. I'd like to thank my adviser for getting me to take job-seeking seriously'..."
The poster went on to say that s/he was wholly unconvinced by this tosh - as, of course, are the rest of us.  One is reminded of the sort of fake testimonials you get on the literature of producers of rubbish.  And it's creepy.  Who are they trying to kid?  This site is only available to staff, so presumably they're trying to convince the staff themselves that attacks of conscience can be dismissed.  Let's hope they don't succeed.


  1. Who are the people in the case study?

    1. Read the whole of the thread on the website. It appears to be on the lines of "Darren from Birmingham".

  2. The duplicity is maddening.

    But then perhaps it's the only way to keep the sanctions rolling in. JCP advisors are in my experience a very harsh and uncaring calibre of people [not all, but I can only speak from personal experience] but they are still people nonetheless.

    To inflict the misery and suffering that sanctions cause on a daily basis for petty and trivial 'offences' must take its toll on even the least empathic and most unkind among them- fake stories like this in the DWP intranet are perhaps a way to reinforce the idea that what they are doing, while it may say awful and grim, are in fact for the greater good.

    1. The Gaurdian article states "The amount spent on jobseeker's allowance, for example, the key unemployment benefit, is relatively small – around 3% of the departmental total". Do JCP staff have targets to work to?

  3. For the greater good, that phrase always fills me with dread. (In the film Hot Fuzz the Citizens watch Committee parrots that phrase all the time and i dont want to ruin the film but it doesnt end well for people).

  4. The 'sanctions are good for you' narrative is a pre-cursor to the Tories attack on other benefits. For example, if you believe that everyone could get a job if they tried you may also believe that everyone could pay for their own private medical insurance if they worked harder.

    If the Tories win the next GE they will see it as a mandate to scrap the NI scheme and replace it with various private insurance schemes. This will have the effect of making the cost of living even greater and possible bankrupt the middle-classes.

  5. This post has been picked up by the unemploymentmovement.com forum (http://unemploymentmovement.com/forum/chat-a-rap/8129-darren-from-birmingham-says-its-true) and a poster on there has rubbished the whole story because he "Googled to find the original and hopefully the other seven glowing testimonials for forced labour and found nothing so wrote it off as the hogwash it is."
    Can I just point out that the testimonials are reported to have appeared on the DWP INTRANET. An organisation's intranet is a closed system which doesn't come up on search engines. So you need a better reason than that to write it off as hogwash.

    1. Exactly so. I read the same post and reached the same conclusion.
      On the content of the DWP article, which seems to be a desperate attempt to assuage any lingering conscience in its employees, it reminds me of the headmaster saying "this will hurt me more than it hurts you" before administering a vicious thrashing.
      That was a lie then just as the DWP message is a lie now.
      No one is fooled.

    2. Probably written by the DWP spokesman..

  6. I've just been referred for a 13 week sanction for assuming two identical links (jobs saved by my advisor) on the JC website would take me to the same "This job has expired" page. For whatever reason it didn't.
    She clicked the left hand link...the Job was still listed, the next day at home I clicked the right hand link...the "Job had expired".
    The next day at my appointment she clicked the left hand link, the job was still listed. I can only assume there is some delay or error in the website.
    No understanding from my advisor, just assumptions I was lying.
    Sanctioned, presumed guilty and sentenced, with little chance of winning any appeal, and that's good for me ?
    I agree with the above anonymous "harsh and uncaring".

    1. JC website is useless. Half the links take you to sites such as monster, or 'insert random agency here'. I've seen the same job advertised in my area 6 times, 6 different listings, all by agencies or other jobsites.

      The JC also uses these job listings as evidence in sanctions that you aren't doing enough. If you said you applied for one of them, but not the other 5, you will get sanctioned despite them being the exact same job for the same company. Even if you SHOW them this for a fact.

      I feel sorry for the companies advertising honestly. Instead of 1 application per person, they get multiple per person as people are frightened into wasting time just to keep themselves afloat.

    2. Yes totally useless, I tend to use Indeed, it's pretty straight forward, I've now removed permission for my "advisor" to access my account, if she wants me to apply for specific jobs she' going to have to print them out and hand them to me.
      What really stings is that fortnight I had applied for 23 jobs, and the reward I receive is a 13 week sanction for a minor oversight.
      The Jobcenter has become the Job Police Force, brutal unfair and uncaring, you have to feel for some of the people working there, (you'd hope) they must be really struggling having to treat people like dirt in order to meet their quota's and keep their jobs, on the other hand (and this includes my "advisor") some seem to be relishing in their new-found powers.
      I don't go in there expecting any kind of help or support, I now go in and treat them as I would if I met someone who was smiling at me whilst holding a knife behind their back.
      I don't care whether they are doing it under duress from their supervisors or they are getting off on it, my guard is up and I'm watching everything I do and say, and not volunteering anything other than what is expected.
      I beat myself up about my current situation, I don't need it rubbing in every week.

    3. Maybe I'm reading this situation wrong but I've just been given two "A doubt has arisen in your claim" letters regarding the link clicking issue.
      Surely in their quest for sanctions my case isn't being treated as two separate sanction-able offences ?
      If so, my question is obviously do they run concurrent or consecutive ?...who knows?
      Strange to be given two letters concerning one event about two jobs...confusing ?...I really don't know what's going on....but hey...apparently it's good for me :)

  7. Anonymous 18 Dec 2013 11:33

    Absolutely disgusting! And there are those who are still convinced there are no sanctions targets of any kind?

    Remember BBC1's 'That's Life' presented by Esther Rantzen? They had a segment called 'jobsworth of the week'. Traffic Wardens and council employees were the usual targets. Today they would have been inundated with examples from JCP and the DWP!

    This nonsensical behavior by JCP advisers as described above goes more than mere jobsworthiness though. It is a sinister program of making life unbearable for jobseekers. Not only do they have to apply for jobs, which is perfectly reasonable. They now have to apply in a myriad of ways that vary from job centre to job centre and adviser to adviser. And of course IT glitches are not allowed or taken into account.

    Welcome to the dysfunctional universe of George Iain Duncan Smith!!!

  8. The way the unemployed in this country are being treated is disgraceful. The type of punishments being handed out by the DWP would not be accepted in ANY OTHER type of occupation or aspect of life. For example, if you were ten minutes late for work and your boss sent you home without pay for 13 weeks this would be considered unfair. If the boss argued that they did it for the employees benefit i.e. to reinforce good behaviour, he would still be ridiculed for being over zealous. Why has it become acceptable to treat the unemployed like crap?

  9. As my Laptop has frozen I am relying upon the Library and have not been able to follow this post. As I have now returned from the WP to the JCP I find myself having a Deja Vu moment..No exit interview,just a phone call a few days before saying "We are done with you,please send us that unused Bus ticket or you will be charged for it" Now the "Hit Squad" appointment letter arrived,after reading it I was looking forward to it "Your appointment will take 40 Minutes,we will talk to you about Jobs,Training and other ways to help you back to work..Answer any questions that you might have" Brilliant(but sounds familiar?) The day arrives,suited,booted and eager...22 Minute wait..The Specialist Adviser beckons me..."Please sign the new Claimant Commitment" Can I read it first? "Yes,but I have already filled in what will be required of you" It was actually reasonable 5X Weekly,searches.I asked about what Training was available? "We will discuss that at a later date,you will see 1 of 5 Coaches in a rotation on your regular signing on date" Ok,but whom do I see about Training,Education or any ESF programmes that might be available? "That will be addressed at a later date" Ok,can you give me a date or an appointment where we can discuss the opportunities that are available(I pointed out in the letter they sent that this was the main point) .."We will discuss this at the next signing on day"...Next appointment,new Coach "Have you filled out your Work Plan?" Yes.."Proof of your Job search?" It does not mention anything about proof or how many I have to apply for?..But I have kept a Journal of my daily activities(accepted) Can we talk about Training opportunities that are available? "What Training do you want?" Plant Operator? "I am not sure we have this" Rather than having me guess what is available,could you provide me with a list of Courses? "We don't do that" But we are supposed to talk about Training.."Your payment will be in your bank"..End of.....I swear I am back on the WP!

  10. My impression is that the Tories are determined to make claiming JSA so intolerable that people will cease to claim JSA, HB and CTB. Sure, the people concerned (and their families) will end up becoming homeless but the Tories will be able to spread even more dishonest propaganda prior to the election in 2015.

    According to Cameron Minor’s “Big Society” nonsense, billionaires such as Branson might feel inspired to copy Rowntree, Peabody etc in order to deal with the inevitability of a return to the slums, just as the food banks are already preventing starvation.

    My own suspicion is that the medical profession might put its foot down with a future govt if their insane “policies” cause a return to some serious diseases but I doubt whether anything short of disease will stop the crazy march towards capitalism.

    Cameron Minor’s brother in law is a consultant cardiologist. He might do something in the event of a return to rheumatic fever or whatever.

  11. I don't know what to do with this so I'll put it here.

    I am 54 years old and I have been in full employment since leaving full time education some 32 years ago.

    In August 2010 and through no fault of my own, I became unemployed and I had no other recourse than to make a claim for Jobseekers Allowance.

    The Jobcentre referred me to a local Work Programme Provider.

    On arriving for my initial introductory interview I was asked to sign a document that surrendered my rights to data protection.
    The document which I was asked to sign would allow the Work Programme Provider to share any and all my personal data with any third party of their choosing.
    I declined to waive my rights to data protection and I was then threatened with a sanction for refusing to comply with a ‘mandatory activity’.

    During my time with the Work Programme Provider I was denied access to a number of training opportunities and refused information regarding enquiries in to setting up a self-employed business.

    I have now completed two years with the Work Programme Provider and I am now back with the Jobcentre.

    On the 19th December 2013 I attended the Jobcentre for my first interview with my newly appointed Employment Coach.

    During my time Unemployed I have in the form of a spread sheet, kept a meticulous and detailed record of all my job search activities.
    So that my Job search activities could be checked and verified I provided links to websites that I have used and the contact details of Job Vacancy advertisers to which I have applied.

    Every fortnight for the past three years when ‘signing on’ I would printout a copy of this spread sheet, a total of two A4 sheets of paper, detailing all my job search activities for the previous two weeks, this I would present to the Jobcentre claimant advisors as evidence of required Job Search activities, the Jobcentre claimant advisors would check my Job search activities and investigate the websites which I have used to apply for advertised vacancies including the Universal Job Match website.

    During my first interview with my newly appointed Employment Coach I again presented my Job search spread sheet.
    I was then told that this spread sheet evidence was insufficient and that I now must provide a printout paper copy of all Job Search related emails, all application forms and printed screen shots of all applications made via websites.

    I requested the email address of my newly appointed Employment Coach so that I could email to them the documents and links required, my request was refused and I was threatened with a sanction if I failed to provide the evidence asked for.

    How can I comply with this demand?
    I do not own a printer nor can I afford to purchase a printer.

    For the past three years I have been imposing upon friends or using the facilities provided by the Work Programme Provider to print out my two page spread sheet.
    The cost of printer ink is astronomical plus the cost of and the amount of wasted paper that this activity would generate is a cost that I cannot possibly meet nor can I ask friends to bear this cost for me.

    My Employment Coach is well aware that the request for a printout paper copy of each and every individual email and application form is unreasonable, they are also aware that I cannot possibly comply with the request.

    I will therefore be sanctioned for my failure to provide sufficient evidence of job search activities.

    1. If it wasn't that, they would find something else to sanction you with, your simply now a target. You will be classed as long term unemployed and put on the top of the list for sanctions.

      I just found this recent interview from a JobcentreMole... quite a disturbing read....


      His twitter feed is quite an eye opener.

      I'm sure historian will have a word or two to say about this. ;)

    2. I don't know why, but I'm not totally convinced by this.

    3. Can you get a printer from Freecycle? I got mine from an office as it was being thrown away - it works fine it just takes about a day to print off a sheet of paper - and because it's so old the cartridges are about £10 off ebay. I signed on for a year so I understand how frustrating the system is, I spent a year always very nearly getting a job, and ended up on the Work Programme. When I signed off they then started hassling my 80 year old mother (whose name and number were my emergency contact) to find out if I was in work as I refused to tell them. They called her at 7.30am every morning telling her I was in trouble with the government for not saying I was in work. She has dementia and was distraught by the whole business, and it made me feel like an utterly rotten human being for signing on in the first place. My MP wrote to them in the end, and the WP's head office just rang up and said I shouldn't have written to my MP and I still had to tell them I was in work! I had withdrawn any consent by this point, it made no difference.


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