The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted making up comments from supposed “benefit claimants” that appeared in a leaflet about sanctions.
The leaflet, which has now been withdrawn, included positive example stories from people who claimed to have interacted with the sanctions system.
In one example, titled “Sarah’s story”, a jobseeker is quoted as being “really pleased” that a cut to her benefits supposedly encouraged her to re-draft her CV.
“It’s going to help me when I’m ready to go back to work,” the fabricated quote reads.
Another, by a benefit claimant supposedly called “Zac”, details the sanctions system working well.
But in response to a freedom of information request by the Welfare Weekly website the DWP said the quotes were not actually real cases and that the photos were not of real claimants.
“The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants … The stories are for illustrative purposes only,” the department said.
The leaflet, a copy of which is available in full at Welfare Weekly, contains no suggestion that the stories are not real.
The revelation is controversial because the sanctions system has been criticised for causing extreme hardship and being operated in an unfair and arbitrary way.
In March this year Parliament’s Work and Pensions Select Committee said there was evidence that sanctions were geared towards punishing people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work.