How disabled benefit claimants are being set up for sanctions

Yet another disabled JSA claimant is told that his jobcentre no longer has specialist support for disabled jobseekers:

(You can read earlier stories on this same issue here and here):

Last week, I spoke at length with a 66-year-old woman who accompanies her son to his JSA signon sessions at a West Midlands jobcentre.

Her son has serious depression. His mental health condition can be so severe that he struggles to leave his flat and panics if anyone comes to his home. “That’s why I go to the jobcentre with him – because he just wouldn’t go. [If people don’t attend] then of course they get a sanction and they get no money.” This woman is her son’s appointee. He was receiving employment and support allowance, but was found fit for work after a work capability assessment. He is now on jobseekers’ allowance and is supposedly being “helped” to find work by his jobcentre and the DWP.

The problem is that this “help” is becoming very hard to find. At his most recent jobcentre meeting, this man and his mother were told that the disability employment adviser they’d been seeing for support was no longer working in that role at their West Midlands jobcentre. DEAs are/were jobcentre advisers who had extra training and time to support disabled claimants. DEAs are being removed from jobcentres. “She told me that she’s no longer the disability adviser, because they’ve stopped them. They’ve put her on the front desk with all the others. So basically, they’re disregarding disability now.” Her son has a sick note to excuse him from jobsearch activities for a set period of time. His mother said the adviser told her son that he might feel better and more able to look for work after the sick note expired. And there you have it: disability support at jobcentres for people who claim JSA and have serious mental health conditions.

There are two issues here.

Read more:

Nice try, David Cameron, but sickness can’t just be rebranded into unemployment

The government wants to pretend that disability and ill health don’t exist, but it doesn’t work.

How nice in this day and age to receive post. My frequent correspondent, the Department for Work and Pensions, recently dropped me a line to remind me what an economic burden my chronic illness is. This letter, an invitation to a little “work-focused interview” they were holding, contained the word “work” nine times, plus one “working” and one “employment”. References to health or disability: not one.

Said letter arrived the week after I had been summoned to a meeting at my local Jobcentre. I had been to these before. You hand over your bank statements and doctors’ notes to prove that you are not a Russian oligarch with Munchausen syndrome, and are thus entitled to your benefits. Photocopies are taken. They pat you on the head and send you away to await your fortnightly bank transfers. Relatively painless.

So imagine my surprise, if you will, when the first question was asked and it was “Do you have your CV ready?”

I admitted that in my fourteen months of chasing a diagnosis, followed by five more making my slow, underfunded ascent up the waiting list for treatment, keeping my CV up to date had not been my top priority. I explained that my sainted mother, who frequently has to do my grocery shopping for me, had driven me there and was primed to drive me home again because I wouldn’t have the energy for a bus ride. That I had defrosted a microwave meal for that evening as I knew I would be beyond cooking. That I hadn’t done anything the previous day, nor would I the next, to make sure that I could come to this interview. That “getting dressed” for me usually means putting on a different pair of pyjamas. That I go to bed for an hour every morning and every afternoon to make it through the day. That my various doctors didn’t consider me able to work.

“So, do you think that you could work, maybe, sixteen hours a week?”

read the rest of this here:

JobCentre Advisor ‘Disciplined For Not Sanctioning Enough’

Same Difference

Spotted at Welfare News Service Facebook page. Published here with many thanks to editor Steven Preece.

A JC adviser has just told me to my face that she has been disciplined for not referring enough jobseekers for potential benefit sanctioning. She was not willing to disclose the exact nature of that disciplinary action. This comes after IDS has insisted that there are no targets for advisers. She didn’t know at the time that I am a journalist, but after informing her of who I am (WNS Editor) she has requested that I do not disclose her identity, out of fear she would be sacked. If there are any other JC staff reading this who would like to disclose similar information I would be more than willing to grant full anonymity.

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The failing benefit sanctions system is unfairly targeting Britain’s youth

Jobcentre Plus is failing young people, who are almost twice as likely to see their benefits stopped

Every two minutes a young person somewhere in the UK has their benefits stopped by a Jobcentre. Despite making up only 27% of jobseeker’s allowance claimants, young people are the recipients of 43% of the sanctions issued. Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions also reveal an alarming number of sanction decisions taken against young people (38,969) being eventually overturned, suggesting they have been incorrectly or unfairly applied in the first place.

People can see their benefit payments taken away for a number of reasons, from failing to attend a meeting at a Jobcentre to leaving a job without a good reason or because of misconduct. Sanctions can last between four weeks and three years.

read the rest of this article by Denise Hatton on the Guardian’s Housing Network blog here:

They threatened sanctions because they couldn’t read my handwriting

For about a month now, I’ve been spending time outside London jobcentres with the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group talking to people who are signing on about their experiences with JSA, sanctions and jobcentres. Last week, we went back to Kilburn. Recently at the jobcentre, we heard from one man who said he’d been sanctioned for several months. He was furious and screamed that he was “going to come back with a fucking hammer.”

I asked him if he wanted to talk about the sanction and he told me to fuck off. “Why the fuck would I want to talk about it?” he yelled as he disappeared towards the high street. Which was fair enough. I wouldn’t want to discuss a months-long sanction with some old blogger with a notebook. I’d want someone to fix the sanction. Who wouldn’t. I give you this as an example of the sort of fury and desperation that this vicious JSA sanctions regime generates and to put it to you that there’ll be more of it when conditions for JSA become even more demanding.

Doubtless, that’s the government’s plan – to push people on JSA and jobcentre staff to breaking point and then to sit back and enjoy the fallout. Personally, I can’t believe that people who are out of work are being targeted so viciously. It is not actually a crime to be unemployed. It can happen to anybody. The system ought to stop you from falling – not shove you until you do.

I hope some worthy or other out there is taking note of all of this. People are under serious stress here and someone needs to move on it. Stop cutting people’s money off. Stop it now.

At the most recent session, I spoke with:

Bruce*, a support workers in his 40s. He was furious because he’d actually found himself a job (not through the jobcentre), but had been signed off by the jobcentre a couple of months before he was due his first paycheck. He was still trying to sort out problems with fares and travel costs.

Read the rest of this article by Kate Belgrave here:

Sanctioned on her first signing date

From the Facebook page Atos Miracles,8th March 2014

My sister was sanctioned on her first signing date reason being she had only applied for jobs only off the Internet? She never received any jsa , she was also caring for our Mum and was told to try for Carers allowance so she went to her jobcentre to enquire and the adviser the one that sanctioned her said “get someone else to look after her” Mum is 91 and is bed ridden with a stroke, the adviser said if you can care for your Mum you can get a proper job as a carer. My sister did not appeal she was to upset and reckons you have no chance against the system.

Iain Duncan Smith Faces Probe Over ‘Bogus’ Jobs On Jobseekers Website

Iain Duncan Smith‘s Department of Work and Pensions could be investigated after it emerged that over a third of a million jobs it advertises for job hunters could be bogus or unlawful.

Labour MP Frank Field has asked the National Audit Office to launch a probe into the scale of job fraud on the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch site, which all jobseeker’s allowance claimants are forced to use to look for work and must apply for a minimum number of jobs each week.

The DWP admitted to Field that 179 employer accounts advertising 352,569 jobs may potentially be in breach of the website’s Terms and Conditions. Ministers were recently embarrassed by a a £10-per-hour prostitute job advert popping up in error on the Direct Gov website.

Teresa Pearce, Labour member of Parliament’s work and pensions committee, told HuffPostUK: “Jobs are posted on Universal Jobmatch by “employers” but a large number, specifically in sales, are commission only door-to-door catalogue sales – not proper jobs at all. Also, there are some “self-employed” jobs which are clearly bogus employment.

“The worst thing is that if a jobseeker failed to take one of these “jobs” they could have their benefit stopped. Universal Jobmatch is a deeply flawed tool which delivers for neither job seeker nor possible employer.”

Field said: “The heart of the government’s welfare reform programme is bedevilled with fraud and, in its current state, it is out of control. Anyone can place an advertisement on the site in the space of five minutes by ticking a few boxes.

“Ministers need to get a grip before more people fall victim to fraudsters preying on them with the helping hand of a major government department.”

The DWP was forced to investigate allegations earlier in February that a Coventry recruiter posted 11,000 fake jobs on the government website, which has itself won an award for being the “worst online recruitment site”.

Employment minister Esther McVey admitted in February that the department does not collect data on where the jobseekers who use Universal Jobmatch end up or how many complaints are lodged about the system.

She told MPs: “Universal Jobmatch is part of the Government’s plan for providing easy online access to Government services for all and is one of the services we use to help claimants back into work.

“We are unable to produce data for the number of claimants referred to Universal Jobmatch, who have entered employment. However, we know that the majority of JSA claimants are now registered on Universal Jobmatch with an account and are applying for jobs using the service.”

A DWP spokesman said bogus adverts were common to all on-line job sites, adding: “The truth is that the vast majority of employers post genuine jobs, and we crack down on those who don’t play by the rules. We also regularly monitor the site and remove jobs that don’t meet our rules, such as duplicate advertisements or jobs for franchises.”

by Asa Bennett in the Huffington Post, 6th March 2014: