Echoing the government’s own research, in a survey of their members who work as jobcentre advisors, 70% of respondents said sanctions had no positive impact.
> But were they meant to have a “positive” impact ? I dont think that was every the case, they have always been a form of punishment.
More than three quarters of those who took part said they had seen an increase in referrals to foodbanks.
The findings contrast sharply with outrageous comments made yesterday by one of the Department for Work and Pensions‘ most senior civil servants.
Questioned by Members of the Scottish Parliament, Neil Couling said many people who face benefit sanctions “welcome the jolt” it can give them.
He also claimed poor people were “maximising their economic choices” by turning to foodbanks.
When PCS exposed the prevalence of advisers being given targets for referring claimants for sanctions last year, it was Couling who tried to rubbish it, despite the overwhelming evidence.
Targets for sanctions
In the survey, 23% said they had been given an explicit target for making sanction referrals and 81% said there was an ‘expectation‘ level.
Almost two thirds said they had experienced pressure to refer claimants for a sanction inappropriately.
More than one third stated they had been placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP) for not making “enough” referrals and 10% had gone as far as formal performance procedures.
The performance system can lead to dismissal so this kind of pressure is a thinly veiled threat to people’s jobs.
> As opposed to the explicit threat of sanctioning those who have no job at all…
The DWP is yet to provide any evidence that advisers who make an excessive number of referrals are challenged in the same way.
The stricter regime has led to an increase in violence and threats, with 72% of respondents reporting an increase in verbal abuse and 37% seeing an increase in physical abuse.
While we do not believe it is acceptable, we understand the anger directed towards jobcentre staff and we have a shared interest with claimants in bringing this counterproductive system to an end.
> Well, let us know when you start… my personal experience is that there are far too many Jobcentre workers who seem quite enthusiastic about sanctioning people. Perhaps they’re not PCS members ?
We believe the government must fully analyse and take responsibility for the damaging effects sanctions are having on claimants and their families.
> In the meantime ? PCS are in the position of really damaging this increasingly insane strategy by instructing members not to sanction anyone. They cant sack everyone.
But I fear the PCS has no teeth and no spine.
Source – PCS website 30 April 2014