Tagged: Employment minister

635,000 Sign New ‘JSA Claimant Commitment’ As Arbitrary Sanctions Continue To Hit Jobless

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and collated from the Labour Market System (LMS), show that a total of 635,000 jobseeker’s signed the new Claimant Commitment pledge between 14 October 2013 and 11 April 2014.

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) Claimant Commitment was launched by the coalition government in October 2013 and described as “the start of a redefinition of the relationship between the welfare state and claimants”, by the then Employment Minister Esther McVey.

Under the new regime jobseeker’s are required to sign a claimant commitment, or work plan, to “agree regular specific tasks and training opportunities and the penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work will be clearly spelt out”.

These ‘tasks’ could include agreeing to apply for a certain number of jobs each week, taking part in ‘training opportunities’, furthering their education and other ‘tasks’ set out in a personal work plan.

The DWP say that a total of 26,300 Jobcentre staff have been trained to deliver the new JSA Claimant Commitment with the majority of those being in central England and London area’s.

Unemployed people on Universal Credit are also required to sign a claimant commitment as a means of supporting them back into work ‘at the earliest opportunity’.

The new JSA Claimant Commitment has been partly blamed for a shocking 60 per cent rise in the number of jobseeker’s having their benefits sanctioned; where a claimant can see their benefits cut or stopped completely for weeks, months or even years for failure to adhere to the jobseeker’s agreement.

Far from helping unemployed people back into work, the Citizens Advice Bureau say benefit sanctions can create  barrier to employment.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“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.”

> I do wish people like the CAB would remember that everyone receiving benefits is also a taxpayer – be it Council Tax, Bedroom Tax, or VAT, being on benefits does not exempt anyone from paying taxes.

Young people have been hit particularly hard by the new JSA Claimant Commitment and subsequent benefit sanctions.

Despite only making up 27 per cent of all JSA claimants, young people have received 43 per cent of all benefit sanctions dished out by sometimes overzealous Jobcentre staff.

Perhaps even more shocking are the DWP statistics which show 38,969 of these decisions were later overturned following an appeal.

Many jobseeker’s, particularly young people, say they do not understand why their benefits were sanctioned, despite having signed the JSA Claimant Commitment.

Some sanctions have been for what most people would regard as ridiculous reasons: such as failing to turn up for a Jobcentre appointment despite already informing staff that they were attending a job interview.

Benefit sanctions, and the JSA Claimant Commitment, have also been blamed for a 163 per cent surge in the number of people turning to food banks in the past year.

Around 31 per cent of those who had been referred for food parcels from the Trussell Trust say their benefit payments had been delayed, mainly due the draconian sanctions regime introduced by the coalition government.

The Trussell Trust Chairman, Chris Mould, said:

“In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.

“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.

A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger.”

Source – Welfare News Service  24 April 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/635000-sign-new-jsa-claimant-commitment-as-arbitrary-sanctions-continue-to-hit-jobless/

Meanwhile – Slight fall in North East unemployment but region still remains UK’s highest

North East unemployment has dropped slightly but still remains the UK’s highest.

The latest unemployment count shows 130,000 on unemployment benefit in the region, down 3,000 over the last three month period. But at 10% the rate was nearly 2% higher than elsewhere in the UK.

> It says something about the true state of affairs when, even after all the sanctioning and manipulation of figures, they still can’t get the NE figures down.

This morning employment minister Esther McVey said: “With the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the North East falling in every month of the last year, it’s clear that the Government’s long-term plan to build a stronger, more secure economy is helping businesses create jobs and get people into work.

“Nationally, employment continues to increase and youth unemployment continues to fall, which means more people have the security of a regular wage and can plan for their future.”

Across the UK unemployment continued to fall and a record number of women are in work, new figures have revealed.

The jobless total was 2.34 million in the final quarter of last year, down by 125,000, giving a rate of 7.2%.

The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance dipped to 1.22 million in January, down by 27,000 – the 15th consecutive monthly fall.

More women are in work than at any time since records began in 1971, at just over 14 million, today’s data from the Office for National Statistics showed.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “It’s good to see another fall in unemployment. Our Long Term Economic Plan means more people with the security of a wage and a chance in life.”

But Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Sadly, today’s fall in the total number of unemployed masks the scourge of under-employment, which is growing at an alarming rate across the country.

“Under-employment is now a bitter reality for millions of struggling families across the UK.

“Too many people are stuck in minimum-wage jobs, on zero-hours contracts and part-time work when they are desperate to go full-time.”

Source – Newcastle Journal  19 Feb 2014

Over 4000 Unpaid Workers Recruited Right Under The So-Called Fighting Union’s Nose

the void

workfare_0It is hard to imagine a more toxic influence on wages and working conditions than an army of un-unionised and unpaid workers forced to be there under threat of benefit sanctions.

Yet whilst the so-called fighting PCS Union has dithered over benefit sanctions and workfare that is exactly what has happened under their very noses at the DWP.

As spotted by @boycottworkfare, Employment Minister Esther McVey recently boasted that 4,300 unpaid workers on the Government’s Work Experience scheme have been press-ganged into working for the DWP over the last three years.  This could represent up to one million hours of forced labour – potentially replacing nearly a two hundred full time jobs over the same period.

Whilst the Work Experience scheme is officially ‘voluntary’ claimants who refuse to work for free at the DWP can face being sent on a mandatory  workfare scheme instead.  George Osborne even recently announced

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Suprise ! North East unemployment rises

The North East has again failed to follow the trend in falling unemployment.

Jobless figures out this morning show the region has the highest unemployment rate in the UK, at 10.3%.

The figure is up slightly from December’s 10.1%, while the rest of the UK saw record drops in unemployment.

Some 134,000 are unemployed in the North East, up around 1,000.

Nationally, unemployment has fallen to 7.1% – within touching distance of the figure which will be used to decide whether interest rates will increase, official data have revealed.

> But I bet we’ll get the increased rates nevertheless…

The number of jobless people plunged by 167,000 in the quarter to November – the second biggest fall on record – to 2.32 million, the lowest for almost five years.

The Bank of England’s monetary policy committee has said it will not lift interest rates above their historically-low level of 0.5% until the unemployment rate drops to 7%.

The quarterly fall of 167,000 is the biggest since the autumn of 1997 and the second largest since records began in 1971.

The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in December fell by 24,000 to 1.25 million, the lowest figure for almost five years.

The so-called claimant count has now fallen for 14 months in a row.

> All those sanctions…

Meanwhile, the number of people in work has reached a record high of just over 30 million, giving an employment rate of 72.1%, an increase of 0.5% over the quarter to November.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: “Creating jobs and getting people into employment are central to our economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy, so it is very encouraging news that we’ve seen a record-breaking rise in employment over the last three months – the largest ever.

“With the highest quarterly fall in unemployment since 1997, it’s clear that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work so they can secure their future is proving successful.”

> Off benefits and into greater poverty would be nearer the mark, I suspect.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter: “The biggest quarterly increase in employment on record. More jobs means more security, peace of mind and opportunity for the British people.”

> He might have added:  “Except in the North East and Northern Ireland, but they dont vote Tory anyway, so who cares ?”

If even despite  the record numbers of sanctions and other figures manipulation NE unemployment still rises, then you know you’ve got problems. I can see come April we’ll all be on Workfare… or be forced to move to other areas… 0r just rounded up and shot.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 22 Jan 2014

Esther McVey vs The Internet – DWP Attempt Social Networking Spin Campaign

I really dont think they’ve thought this through (as usual). Should be good spectator sport for a few days..

the void

The DWP are attempting to ramp up their presence on social media with online events on their often overlooked facebook page, whilst on twitter they are using the new hashtag #job2014.

Even David Cameron has been plugging the DWP’s social networking pages, having no doubt been convinced by Employment Minister Esther McVey that she’s down with the kids on the internet.  After all, what could possibly go wrong?

On Wednesday Jobcentre Plus busy-body Caroline will be live on facebook lecturing people on how to find work, then on Friday a DWP related twitter account will be hosting a live chat promoting workfare.

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Unemployment Falls – Sanctions Rise. Coincidence ?

The UK unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2009, official figures show.

At 7.4%, this is the lowest rate since the February-to-April period in 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The number of people out of work fell by 99,000 to 2.39 million in the three months to October, the ONS said.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in November fell by 36,700 to 1.27 million.

In Northern Ireland the unemployment rate was slightly higher at 7.5%, while Scotland’s figure was 7.1.%. England and Wales matched the national figure of 7.4%.

The North East of England had the highest unemployment rate, at 10.1%, while the lowest rate was 5.6% in the East of England.

The North East also had the highest claimant count rate at 6.1%, compared with the South East, which had the lowest, at 2.3%.

Employment Minister Esther McVey wasn’t slow to grab the credit –  “It is really encouraging news that the number of people in jobs has increased by a quarter of a million in the last three months, bringing the total number of people in work to a record-breaking 30 million.

“Together with a big fall in unemployment, this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work is proving successful.

“It’s also thanks to British businesses up and down the country who are feeling increasingly confident about taking on workers. This is a great sign that the economy is growing.”

Good of her to give a mention to the businesses employing people – “It’s also thanks to British businesses up and down the country” – you might have thought that it’s entirely thanks to them.

Or would you ? Perhaps, against all probability, there is actually some truth to be found in her statement – “this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work is proving successful”.

Now if you were to amend that to – “this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits is proving successful” you might be getting closer to the truth.

 Sanctions !

“Latest figures show Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who failed to do enough to find work had their benefits payments suspended 580,000 times.” – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/benefit-sanctions-ending-the-something-for-nothing-culture

The government’s propaganda site was quick to trumpet their “success” a few months ago.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commenting on the above statement:

‘Figures published today show that half a million people face the threat of destitution as their benefits are taken away in a bid to mould behaviour and encourage people to take jobs.

International evidence is that while conditionality, has its uses, it is a blunt and uncertain instrument for driving behaviour. In the US the evidence is that people disappear below the radar altogether, which may recue the claimant count but creates huge risk.

’The threat of destitution is a poorly evidenced high risk way of trying to influence the behaviour of the poorest people in the country.’

Vanishing under the radar – that’s all part of the government’s long-term economic figure-manipulating plan. It’s not about tax payers money being saved – Jobseekers Allowance payments only amount to around 3% of the budget. Almost three times that – around 8% – is paid in benefits to those IN work.

Consider the words of a Job Centre whistleblower – from 2011, and its got worse since…

A whistleblower said staff at his jobcentre were given targets of three people a week to refer for sanctions, where benefits are removed for up to six months. He said it was part of a “culture change” since last summer that had led to competition between advisers, teams and regional offices.

“Suddenly you’re not helping somebody into sustainable employment, which is what you’re employed to do,” he said.

“You’re looking for ways to trick your customers into ‘not looking for work’. You come up with many ways. I’ve seen dyslexic customers given written job searches, and when they don’t produce them – what a surprise – they’re sanctioned. The only target that anyone seems to care about is stopping people’s money.

“‘Saving the public purse’ is the catchphrase that is used in our office … It is drummed home all the time – you’re saving the public purse. Feel good about stopping someone’s money, you’ve just saved your own pocket. Its a joke.”

Unfortunately a not very funny joke, with a punchline that causes real damage.

“We were told suddenly that [finding someone to sanction] once a week wasn’t good enough, we were far behind other offices, and we went to a meeting where they compared us with other offices, and said we now have to do three a week to catch up. Most staff go into work and they’re thinking about it from moment one – who am I going to stop this week?”

“The young often fall into it, because they haven’t been there long enough, they are generally a major target. The uneducated are another major target. I’ve seen people with … seriously low educational standards and it’s easy to exploit them.”

He said staff had different ways to ensure they could stop benefits for a set amount of people.

“So, for example, if you want someone to diversify – they’re an electrician or a plumber, they may not want to go into call centres or something. What you do is keep promoting such and such a job, and you pressure them into taking it off you, the piece of paper. Then in two weeks you look at the system, you ask them if they applied for it … they say no – you stop their money for six months.”

The whistleblower says his office has been told there is no more money for back to work training from April. “From April, we offer no provision … nothing, no training course, nothing. The funding ends at the end of March.

“[Now] your office can shine through one of two targets. You can either shine through getting people into work, but that’s really difficult. Or you can stop their money, and that’s really easy.”

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/apr/01/jobcentres-tricking-people-benefit-sanctions

Well, that was 2011. Things have got worse as it becomes ingrained in the DWP culture. One perceptive reader of the above Guardian article wrote at the time :

” At some point Osborne or Cameron will triumphantly brandish figures about how many ‘scroungers’ they cut off from benefits. Remember, this is how they did it.”

Anyone hearing Cameron in the media yesterday might like to consider that.

And its going to get worse yet –  consider an article published a few days ago on the Boycott Workfare site –

http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3116

100,000 people given historic sanctions

In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.

After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time.

This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.

It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.

Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day (and neither do the work programme providers!).

Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.

You wonder that the unemployment rates seem to be falling ? Even though there are apparently no more vacancies than before, still masses of empty shops and factories and the local media continues to report job losses on an almost daily basis ?

Do you wonder why, in Parliament, Labour MPs failed to ask questions about the role of sanctions in the supposed improved figures ?

Or why, on the day the figures were released, the Sunderland Echo – hardly a radical publication – headlined with Bleakest Times For The City’s Homeless ?

Come April 2014 and the introduction of compulsory workfare – allied to all those retrospective sanctions they’re currently harvesting – you can just bet those figures will be tumbling yet again.

Please remember why… someone, somewhere, perhaps even you, will have been sacrificed on the altar of political ambition.

Does that dull the feelgood factor perhaps just a little ?