Indiscriminate and insensitive overuse of benefit sanctions needs to be tackled by Liberal Democrat ministers

Benefits-welfareI came across this article about some of the circumstances which had led to sanctions being imposed on benefit claimants. Everything in the article is sourced, but I also take it seriously because it resonates with real life examples that I have heard about.

The coalition has dramatically increased the scale of withdrawal of benefit for infringing rules. A claimant can be sanctioned for not apparently looking hard enough for work, for not attending job centre interviews or for turning down job offers. The minimum period you can lose your benefit for is 4 weeks. You get nothing for a month if you are a few minutes late for an appointment at the job centre. Surely that is disproportionate. It’s a very all or nothing approach – the smallest sanction that can be applied is losing all your money for a month. How does that help encourage effective job search. It’s not easy to perform well at an interview if you are hungry. Bear in mind, also, that the maximum help you can get from a food bank is 3 days’ worth of food, 3 times a year.

So, here are some examples from the article of how these penalties are imposed:

You get a job interview. It’s at the same time as your job centre appointment, so you reschedule the job centre. You attend your rearranged appointment and then get a letter saying your benefits will be stopped because going to a job interview isn’t a good enough reason to miss an appointment.

You’ve signed in on time, been to interviews and applied for work. Your job centre advisor suggests you make a two-line change to your CV, which you do, but fail to give the updated CV to the job centre (you weren’t told you had to). You are sanctioned for four weeks.

You are forced to retire due to a heart condition, and you claim Employment and Support Allowance. During your assessment you have a heart attack. You are sanctioned for not completing your assessment.

You miss your job centre appointment as it clashes with your work programme interview. You get sanctioned.

Have a look at some of the rest. Some of them are clearly unreasonable. When I shared this on Facebook, a friend of mine posted their own example which I’m reproducing with their permission:

My daughter who has learning difficulties phoned her training provider to say she had no money for her bus fares which cost £7.50 as we had gone out for the day and she couldn’t borrow it from anyone else. She was sanctioned for four weeks. That four weeks we had to pay for all her expenses and food being OAP’s we can’t afford to do this.

These people live in a small village so please don’t suggest that it might have been possible for her to walk several miles on a road with no pavement to the placement in the nearest town. Also bear in mind that with the bus fares at £7.50 per day, that’s over half her JSA of £72.

The fact that over half of sanctions are overturned on appeal is proof that the wrong decisions are being made too often. The knock-on effect is unnecessary stress and time wasted on preparing an appeal that could be used to apply for jobs, but that’s beside the point. We shouldn’t be treating people in a clearly inhumane way. How can anybody have confidence in a system that is so clearly being abused. Of course some sort of sanctions regime is necessary, but it needs to be used with sensitivity and fairness.

In fairness to the DWP, if you read their Decision Maker’s Guidance on sanctions, it is actually quite reasonable. It’s hard to imagine that anybody who’s read it would have imposed a sanction in any of the cases outlined above. The problem, therefore, lies with inflexible and insensitive implantation. DWP staff on the ground are exercising poor judgment. It’s surely time for these decisions to be analysed and if they fall short of being reasonable, then disciplinary action needs to be taken on the staff and managers responsible.

If someone is sanctioned and they feel it is unfair they should do the following:

1) Ask for a full statement of the reasons for the sanction being applied and ask for the decision to be reconsidered.

2) If that doesn’t have it lifted, appeal. Go to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau for help.

3) Claim a hardship payment. There is some anecdotal evidence that claimants are being told by the job centre staff that they cannot do so but they can. They’ll still have to wait two weeks for it, though.

4) Tell their MP. They need to have real world examples of the flaws so that they can put pressure on ministers to do something.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau website has more information.

And it’s important that this is sorted soon. In February Inside Housing reported that the DWP will sanction those in part time work for not looking hard enough for full time work. Private sector landlords are already worried about offering tenancies to people on benefits when the Universal Credit comes in and the Housing Benefit is paid directly to the tenant. The last thing we need is for there to be fewer homes available for the poorest.

However, when the Universal Credit is fully implemented, the sanctions regime will become more flexible. The pressing question is why wait for that to happen? Why not make those changes now? The Citizens’ Advice Bureau called for precisely that last week, saying:

People need a system that can take into account their situation, set suitable work search requirements and where necessary apply sanctions at a level that won’t limit their chances of employment.  Whilst it is vital that people receiving taxpayers’ support do their utmost to find work, the model needs to work and not make it harder for claimants to find a job.

To date, Work Programme contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have successfully helped people find work. Combined with Citizens Advice’s latest figures this paints the strongest picture yet that the system is not working as it should.

I would expect Liberal Democrat ministers within the coalition to be making these points clearly and arguing for change. The current situation is causing misery and costing money.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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44 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 21st Apr '14 - 4:46pm

    As alluded to in the article, there isn’t really a problem with the “system” here – the rules laid down by the government are reasonable and fair.

    The rules just aren’t being followed by the jobcentre staff. When sanctions are appealed, they are almost always overturned, because they should never have been used in the first place.

    Changing the rules is not the answer when the problem is that the rules aren’t being followed in the first place. We need real change in the jobcentres, not the benefits system.

  • Thanks to Caron for keeping this injustice at the forefront of debate here.

    I fully concur with her conclusion “I would expect Liberal Democrat ministers within the coalition to be making these points clearly and arguing for change. The current situation is causing misery and costing money, ”

    I would like to see Libdem ministers arguing for a non-means tested Citizens Income to replace both income support and the personal tax allowance together with a job guarantee program to replace the ineffective work program. The evidence is clear enough from our own experiences and those of other countries around the world that workfare produces little in the way of employment and a lot in terms of misery from sanctions systems that are too prone to mistake to be useful.

    Making housing benefit only available to pensioners, the disabled, those unable to work due to long term illness or other mental or physical impairments and the employed would eliminate the need for any sanctions, as long as a job guarantee program were available to those capable of engaging in work or training.

    If mistakes are made by job centres in classifying some people as capable of employment they can be corrected and reclassified as incapacitated by the providers of job guarantees without individuals losing access to their citizens income or housing benefits during the process.

  • Passing through 21st Apr '14 - 5:12pm

    My experiences, as I have recounted previously on here, are of JC staff apologetically explaining that the ridiculous outcomes which result every single day are because central government have removed all discretionary powers from front-line staff and are pressurising them to take the most rigid interpretation of the rules, as standard, in order to massage down claimant numbers. Any act of apparent sanity or compassion will result in them being pulled up by their line manager to account for themselves and the possibility of unemployment themselves.

    But it seems to be standard procedure now to try and scapegoat frontline staff for the failures made-in-Westminister, in this case IDS, whose incompetence is becoming more apparent everyday. The LDs should not be colluding with this as they are being tainted by the Tories’ policy failures.

    In the Tories’ defence being seen as excessively harsh on welfare claimants is a big vote-winner for them but it is big vote-loser for the LDs.

  • Andrew Suffield 21st Apr '14 - 5:19pm

    JC staff apologetically explaining that the ridiculous outcomes which result every single day are because central government have removed all discretionary powers from front-line staff and are pressurising them to take the most rigid interpretation of the rules, as standard

    The main problem with this claim being that it just isn’t true. I’m sure somebody somewhere in the system is doing that (this behaviour does not come from nowhere), but it’s not in the central government. I suspect it’s somewhere in JCP management.

    But it seems to be standard procedure now to try and scapegoat frontline staff for the failures made-in-Westminister

    No, this isn’t new, JCP staff were doing exactly the same damn thing under Labour. Nothing whatsoever has changed since then. The old benefits rules were also reasonable and fair, and JCP staff ignored and abused those too. The penalties imposed are a little different, but they were always applied in all the same inappropriate cases.

    Unfortunately, IDS is not exactly motivated to go digging through the JCP management chain to find the people who are being excessively harsh on benefits claimants.

  • I think we need a complete re-set on the ground rules about sanctions and how they are applied and it is the Lib Dems who should be leading this.

    This is one of the main reasons for increasing use of food banks. The way sanctions are being applied now is totally unacceptable and offends most decent people’s sense of fairness.

    When people need help and are entitled to it, we should not be in the business of denying it to them.

  • The whole sanction system is unnecessarily punitive anyway even without the government encouraging brutally enthusiastic implementation of sanctions. It’s simply not a proportionate response to remove someone’s sole form of income (and a pretty measly income at that) because they missed a single appointment that serves no useful purpose anyway.

  • @ Jack

    “The whole sanction system is unnecessarily punitive anyway even without the government encouraging brutally enthusiastic implementation of sanctions”

    Any real proof there?

  • Richard Dean 21st Apr '14 - 6:19pm

    It seems fundamentally wrong, and very much against LibDem values, to ask civil servants to “interpret” rules in this way; the rules are made by legislators and if the legislators want something different they must change the legislation.

    Allowing interpretation by job centre staff would likely lead to inequality and unfairness – a postcode lottery on implemented benefits, with people with identical situations receiving hugely different support in different areas. This is not consistent with LibDem principles.

    It might also lead to tension, demoralization, uncertainty, confusion, and even job-threats, within the service if and when one staff member disagrees with another’s interpretation.

  • Jenny Barnes 21st Apr '14 - 6:33pm

    Citizen’s income.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    You always seem to come out in force in support of the coalitions welfare sanctions and reforms. Do you have first hand knowledge of the regime? because you talk as though you do.
    I tend to put my faith in the people on the ground, the charities, disability groups etc who have done extensive research and have concluded that not only are the sanctions being implemented unfairly, they are adding to the misery and suffering of some of the most vulnerable people in the country and is the main reason why food banks are ever on the increase.

    I personally think there is a more sinister reason for the use of the sanction regime, Whilst people are sanctioned and have their JSA allowance, they do not make up part of the Unemployment Figures, masking the true extent of unemployment.
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/19/record-number-sanctions-benefits-claimants
    “The number of JSA sanctions in the year to 30 September 2013 was 874,850, the highest since JSA was introduced in 1996. It compares with 500,000 in the year to 30 April 2010, the last month of the previous Labour government.”

    If we were to take from those figures quoted above that each person was sanctioned was sanctioned for 4 weeks. That works out to 72904 people being sanctioned a month.
    Now doesn’t that make the governments quarterly unemployment figures look dubious.

  • the above paragraph should have read Whilst people are sanctioned and have their JSA allowance (stopped) , they do not make up part of the Unemployment Figures,

  • @ Matt

    Wrong. They may not show up in the claimant count figure, but they do show up in the headline figure for unemployment, which is based on standard ILO definitions. So your conspiracy theory is unfounded.

    http://www.detini.gov.uk/unemployment_measures.pdf

  • James Harper 21st Apr '14 - 7:46pm

    Thanks for this Caron, in my experience this is a real problem and has got worse recently. Imposing penury is a very powerful weapon and if it’s going to be an option it needs to be administered with the most careful judgement and consistency. This is clearly not happening at the moment, which is unacceptable.

  • Tony Greaves 21st Apr '14 - 8:06pm

    Yes, all very true, as those of us who have been involved in helping some people locally know only too well. And in my experience some of the worst affected are people who are least able to cope with any disruption in their hard won routines.

    “I would expect Liberal Democrat ministers within the coalition to be making these points clearly and arguing for change. The current situation is causing misery and costing money.”

    I would expect no such thing. (Other than Steve Webb – in his case I do wonder how he can sleep at night). There are several problems within the context of the Coalition, including (1) all Ministers are ridiculously busy and kept so by the daily routines imposed on them by their civil servants. Some of them try to do this kind of job on behalf of Liberal Democrats, within their departments (and some don’t). They do not have time to interfere in other departments.

    (2) There is no proper mechanism across the Coalition for dealing with this problem (stopping the Tories behaving in an appalling Tory manner). There are mechanisms at various levels for referring up disputes within departments (which may end up at the top level – the Quad). But rarely across Departments, and that would be on high policy never at this kind of operational level.

    (3) In an ideal world the SpADs might sort out these things. Again, within departments and depending on the individual concerned, there may be some of this. Indeed I know of good examples. But most of the LD SpADs are allocated to the DPM’s office and as a group their contact with the real world (in Westminster, in the LDs, in politics generally, and indeed in the Real real world, is not always optimal. Anyway they don’t see this kind of thing as being basic to what they d

    As for Andrew Suffield and other hard-line rightwingers, al I can say is – go out and talk to real people affected by this kind of thing. As people know, I have little to say in support of the Labour Party, and even less for New Labour, but the problem of sanctions has got progressively worse during the past four years. Just saying “Labour started is” is infantile. There is a problem, now.

    Tony Greaves

  • @RC

    I am not wrong at all.

    People who are on workfare, work program, Government training schemes. Enterprise Allowance are not counted as part of the unemployment figures, even though clearly these people are not in “paid employment”
    The ONS confirmed this in a freedom of information request, I am looking for the article

    People who are sanctioned are not included in the claimant count,

    These are all measures that are adopted by the Government in order to massage the true extent of unemployment. To be fair to the coalition, this is nothing new, the previous Labour Government did this with the “New Deal” and the previous Tory Government before that. But that does not make it right.

    http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2014/03/government-fiddles-unemployment-figures-by-classifying-all-people-sanctioned-as-having-left-claimant-count/

    Did you read the article you linked http://www.detini.gov.uk/unemployment_measures.pdf, because it clearly states “Also counted as in employment are people on
    government-supported training schemes “

  • @Tony Greaves

    It is very refreshing to see people in the party and in the lords who still have high moral fiber and are not afraid to speak out against the “establishment”
    Wish there was more like you left, then I might have had more hope for a party that I could vote for again

  • David Thompson 21st Apr '14 - 8:42pm

    You are in government, you are complicit in this behaviour and now you need to do something to stop the abuses you highlight here.

    Stop complaining, do something. You have the power. No excuses…….

  • Andrew Suffield 21st Apr '14 - 9:49pm

    You always seem to come out in force in support of the coalitions welfare sanctions and reforms.

    I would challenge anybody to justify that. My position has always very clearly been that the coalition hasn’t really changed anything (notwithstanding the little deckchair-rearranging exercise that the Tories made so much fuss about) and the JCPs are for the most part as broken as they were in 2009. I’ve been saying they need fixing for much longer than that.

    As for Andrew Suffield and other hard-line rightwingers

    I’ll just point out that the last time I had this debate with Tony, he stated his most fervently held beliefs that the existence of private companies should be banned and all industry should be run by the government. I am happy to be a long way to the right of Tony, in what I firmly consider to be the radical centre.

    Every single time this issue comes up, the lunatic left jump in to try and distract us from the real issue: JCP is consistently proven, by actual hard evidence in the form of the appeals statistics, to be misapplying sanctions in almost every case. Changing the rules at the top isn’t going to change that. We need to fix JCP. When JCP is the problem, changing things which are not JCP will do no good whatsoever.

  • A Social Liberal 21st Apr '14 - 10:12pm

    Andrew Suffield asserts

    “My position has always very clearly been that the coalition hasn’t really changed anything (notwithstanding the little deckchair-rearranging exercise that the Tories made so much fuss about)”.

    I advert you to what the DWP say about the matter in the web page entitled ‘Changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions from 22 October 2012’. It would appear that your basic premise has no foundation.

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130627060116/http://www.dwp.gov.uk/adviser/updates/jsa-sanction-changes/

  • http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479vw36.htm

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479vw37.htm

    I hardly think you can blame JCP staff. At the end of the day they work for the DWP, whether you care to admit it or not the DWP takes it directions from the Government who sets its guidance and its targets. The Minister in charge of the DWP is wholly responsible for this.

    Judging by the complete shambolic welfare reforms, UC costing billions and failing miserably.
    take a look at the tribunal services own statistics that was published for the period between October and December 2013 here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/289342/tribunal-stats-oct-dec-2013.pdf
    “Of the 144,000 SSCS cases disposed of in October to December 2013;
    64% were for ESA;
    14% for JSA and
    11% for Disability Living Allowance.
    In October to December 2013, 84% of all SSCS cases were cleared at a
    hearing, slightly higher than last year. Of these the overturn rate was
    40%,
    i.e. 40% had the initial decision revised in favour of the claimant.
    This has increased from 38% in October to December 2012.
    The overturn rate varies by benefit type with
    45% of ESA cases,
    42% of Disability Living Allowance
    and 17% of JSA cases that were cleared at
    hearing having the original decision revised in favour of the claimant.”

    Any other government department with this kind of failure would call for the Ministers head to be chopped.

  • Tony Greaves
    “Just saying “Labour started is” is infantile. ”

    Hear hear, I’ve been saying the same for years but the govt are very keen on anything seen as a positive but everything else & the lame old ‘Labours mess’ meme is trotted out – it’s pathetic & puerile.

    ————————————————
    As for the debate about whether sanctions are the fault of the DWP or JCP staff, who the heck cares ?! It’s the people being left penniless I care about !

  • As far as I know the Liberal Democrats do not have a policy on sanctions and this is another problem which I think might make Liberal Democrat ministers reluctant to raise the issue of sanctions. I don’t think there is anything in the Coalition agreement on sanctions and so even Nick Clegg, if he wanted to get involved might have problems. However as the new rules came into force on 22nd October 2012 wouldn’t he have had to agree to them? I think they might have been part of the Welfare Reform Act (2012) that created Universal Credit.

    From personal experience just having sanctions can cause fear in claimants.

    We need a policy on benefit sanctions. How about:
    1. Before any sanction is applied a claimant must have received a written warning on the first occasion when they broke their Job Seekers Agreement.
    2. As recommended by the Spartacus Foundation no sanctions should be applied to those receiving Employment and Support Allowance.
    3. Those working more than 16 hours a week shall have no sanctions applied to them.
    4. The first sanction applied will always be the loss of one week’s benefit.
    5. The second sanction will be two weeks, the third three weeks and the fourth four weeks.
    6. The fifth sanction will be eight weeks, the sixth 13 weeks, the seventh 26 weeks and the eighth 52 weeks.

    If anyone leaves a job voluntarily they will not be able to apply for benefit for 13 weeks, and this does not increase depending on the number of jobs a claimant leaves.

  • Charles Rothwell 22nd Apr '14 - 7:22am

    Related to this, an interesting article (and discussion following) from “The Hufington Post” on “Ten myths about food banks”: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/25/food-banks-myths_n_4161759.html

    Going back to Caron’s original article (“the maximum help you can get from a food bank is 3 days’ worth of food, 3 times a year.”), the article from the “Post” states that social workers/people referring recipients to food banks are already informed of anyone visiting a food bank more than three times in a six month period (therefore “2 times a year”).

  • The quotes in the article appear on my smartphone as black text on a black background. Can this be changed please. Thanks.

  • Leon Duveen 22nd Apr '14 - 9:21am

    I have been arguing for some time that reform of the DWP & JCP is far more important than any changes to the benefit system. Indeed, I have suggested that in any coalition discussions after the next election. we should insist on running the DWP to do just this as Labour (8 Secs of State in 9 years) & the Tories (IDS, need I say more) have shown that they are only interested in getting headlines not dealing with the issues.

  • Caron,
    I would not expect for one moment that — ” Liberal Democrat ministers within the coalition ” will be “making these points clearly and arguing for change. “.
    Simply because the way the Coalition has worked for the last four years gives no hope whatsoever that this might happen.
    As Matthew Huntbach has frequently pointed out the Coalition could have been very different. But we are where we are.
    As Caracatus points out —
    Caracatus 22nd Apr ’14 – 7:34am
    ” The system is awful,….
    … Lib Dems either have no policy or it exists only as the Quad – who have no contact with the lives of normal people.
    …Clegg is in favour of sanctions, not because he understand them but because of his obsession with political positioning
    … He is destroying the Liberal Democrats.
    … The longer he stays the worse the damage. ”

    Caron, you are absolutely correct to point out that —
    ” The current situation is causing misery and costing money. ”
    Clegg and co should take responsibility for those things for which they are to blame. Which is why Clegg must go.

  • Matt (Bristol) 22nd Apr '14 - 5:09pm

    I think the sanctions process also has the interesting effect of shifting some cost from central to local government: if you are (fairly or unfairly) under a sanction and are appealing it, go to your local council for a crisis payment …

    This is the age-old practice of ‘batting’ known to many in local government as authorities try as hard as possible to identify rules and loopholes that enable them to move cost to other authorities or agencies or encourage housing or social care clients to apply for centrally funded benefits which they can then means-test as income in a bid to reclaim costs.

    This is of course, extremely cynical and unhelpful to the end user who is being forced either onto or below the breadline, or at best to fill out endless forms for no discernibly different end-product; but, of course, ‘everyone’ does it, so it is hard to stamp out without a certain sort of leadership in authorities and agencies that doesn’t consider detail beneath their contempt or have it hidden form them by the sort of middle management who don’t like back-seat-drivers.

    Having larger, more powerful regional authorities might help this, but then you’d still have to carry through a clear reform of budget structures within those authorities to ensure it really ‘stuck’…

    I say, if you’re taxing property to fund local government, then you need to devolve all aspects of taxing that property and setting levels of benefits based on that property to the same level of local (or ideally regional) government. I’m not holding my breath.

  • The massive rise in sanctions under the Coalition hasn’t happened by accident or because of poor training or over-zealous frontline staff. The government has pushed an unofficial, clandestine policy of imposing sanction targets on job centres. Job centre staff who don’t hit these targets are threatened with disciplinary action. This has been in the public realm for more than a year so we can only assume that it has at least tacit support from Lib Dems ministers.

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/28/jobcentre-scorecard-areas-stopping-benefits

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Apr '14 - 6:38pm

    Why do we have to try to UNDO Tory crassness after the event? Surely, one of the ‘advantages’ of Coalition was meant to be the ability to amend Tory proposals like this to stop them going obviously wrong in the first instance?

  • @ Matt
    “People who are sanctioned are not included in the claimant count”

    Which is exactly what I said. They are included in the headline ILO figure for unemployment, however. So you are wrong, the unemployment figures everyone quotes are not being massaged down by sanctions. This is a standard international measure, and on this basis, unemployment is actually falling, however much you might not want it to be.

    You then raised a separate point of training schemes and workfare, about which I didn’t say anything. If these are genuinely involved in proper training schemes, then it is legitimate not to include people as unemployed and available for employment. You do have a point about workfare and low standard “training” being used to bring down the figures, however. Relative to the genuine growth in employment in real jobs, the figures are small by comparison.

  • @ Tony Dawson

    I have to agree with you there. Why were we caught napping on this as with so many other things like the spare room subsidy (e.g. ensuring people have offers of alternative suitable housing before reducing their housing benefit).

    It is possible to be both tough but fair on benefits. At the moment we’re being tough and unfair.

  • Is the text of the food bank motion from York online somewhere? Did it not cover benefit sanctions in its calls? Thanks for keeping this at the front of our minds Caron. In my experience of JCP the staff seem demoralised to the point of not caring anymore. Almost like they know their job is no longer to help people but to issue hair-trigger punishments. I had my JSA stopped for not turning up to a meeting that I wasn’t told about. You can’t really appeal against that in attempting to prove that something didn’t happen.
    Being unemployed is very difficult psychologically. The sanctions regime just adds to that by making people think that everyone’s out to get them. Surely it can only encourage negative thinking in claimants, a mindset that can not be expected to increase their chances of employment.

  • @ Tony Dawson – It takes great skill, including being in the right place at the right time to stop Tory Ministers making mischief. This needed foresight and understanding of the power of ministers over day to day actions and this was sadly missing when negotiating the coalition agreement. Sadly Nick didn’t understand this at the time and so his team focused solely on legislation, (Aside: which for most of his part Nick has failed to deliver). As a result we have a five year parliament (Which other parties are already talking of abolishing next time – “because it was soley for the convenience of this coalition.”) hand in hand with the bedroom tax. We got a very poor deal in the agreement and Nick et al are solely responsible for this part of the fiasco.

  • @RC

    The ILO survey is based on a survey of 41’000 Households over a 3 month period

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CFcQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ons.gov.uk%2Fons%2Fguide-method%2Fmethod-quality%2Fspecific%2Flabour-market%2Farticles-and-reports%2Funemployment-and-the-claimant-count.pdf&ei=XIVXU9zOGLGV7Ablo4GABQ&usg=AFQjCNF3G96VlnO9LzwEyam3YUp6M4kDNg&bvm=bv.65177938,d.ZGU
    “The design of the survey means that in any three month period:
    • Approx 41,000 households in the UK will be interviewed;”

    So hardly think that gives an accurate account of the true levels of unemployment.

    You go on to say “If these are genuinely involved in proper training schemes, then it is legitimate not to include people as unemployed and available for employment.”
    I do not think that is legitimate at all. The people on these programs are not in “paid employment” The majority will be on them under pressure from the DWP in order to retain their benefits. So not to include them in the unemployment figures is grossly misleading and massaging the true extent of unemployment.

    These are tactics that have been used by ALL governments in recent times and it is just plain wrong, especially if the motive of the government for these “Sanctions” and “work programs” is to mask the true extent of unemployment rather than truly helping people back into work

  • “So hardly think that gives an accurate account of the true levels of unemployment.”

    So you’re right and an globally agreed definition of unemployment by the International Labour Organization is wrong?

    By the way, 41,000 households is a huge, statistically representative sample. How many households would it take to be surveyed for you to be satisfied?

    If people are engaged in training (good quality training that is) then they are usefully occupied, presumably in preparation for return to the workforce once they have completed their training. That does not make them unemployed.

  • @RC
    No I do not think a survey sample of 1% of the working age population is an efficient way to measure employment.

    So you think someone claiming “JSA” who is on a Government work program should be excluded from the unemployment count do you? Considering the vast number of people this accounts for, many of whom are not on the program by choice. You think encouraging young people to take up the “enterprise allowance” instead of claiming JSA so they can also be excluded from the unemployment figures. The enterprise fund is just another shield to mask the true extent of youth unemployment, How many new self-employed painters, carpenters, nail technicians do you think our economy demands.

    This is not just a criticism of the coalition government, it is a criticism of the 2 previous governments as well, Labour and Tory.

    I will not allow myself to be fooled by dodgy government statistics telling us how wonderful everything is when it’s a blatantly lie, especially when we have millions of people in this country who are being seriously affected by the cost of living and cuts , many of whom are really struggling and relying on the generosity of food banks, friends and family

  • Caron Lindsay “indiscriminate-and-insensitive-overuse-of-benefit-sanctions-needs-to-be-tackled-by-liberal-democrat-ministers”

    But it won’t be.

  • Nick Tregoning 25th Apr '14 - 8:20am

    Log sanctions overturned on appeal against the Decision Maker who decided on the sanction on a rolling monthly basis. 10%-20% mandatory retraining; 20%-50%, a four week sanction of 25% of gross salary plus mandatory retraining; Above 50%, dismissal on grounds of capacity. A taste of their own medicine wouldn’t do them any harm at all.

  • Very draconian. Losing benefits for 4 weeks+ due to missing an appointment for the first time seems ridiculous. A genuine mistake? Been searching for work? Paid a lot of tax and NI contributions into the system in the past? Well, that’s too bad.

  • Yep, I understand this completely. I got confused over an appt date as the adviser told me it was on Thursday as usual, but the letter she gave me said a different date on it. I did not realise this as I misplaced the letter, but managed to find it before the Thursday, due to my mother cleaning up and moving it. Lo and behold I realised and called up to apologise, but explained that verbally I was told it was Thursday, but they said it was not good enough and I was at fault and I got sanctioned for 4 weeks. Had never missed an appt before and was an honest mistake. Then I got a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice stating that the decision maker accepted that I made an honest mistake, but it was still not a good enough reason and the sanction still stands. All I can say to everyone is take it ALL THE WAY TO A TRIBUNAL AND COMPLAIN TO MANAGERS AND YOUR MP! I am taking this matter to a tribunal I have nothing to lose. Remember they have everything to lose and you don;t. They have already taken your money so you have nothing to lose by taking it to a tribunal. I was on contributions JSA so they are stealing my money that I paid in tax, which I am entitled to. The Condems, are thieves. Sanctions should be imposed on those who are obstructive and hostile to the idea of finding work, not to brow beat those who have made an honest mistake.

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