Pretty sure the government wants death, depression and crime for people who are out of work

A few thoughts as we kick into the year. Interviews from people who’ve been sanctioned at the end of the post:

As you’ll no doubt have read, the work and pensions select committee meets this coming week to hear evidence about benefit sanctions, with sanctioning connected to crime and depression.

Okay. I suppose that hearing will at least draw attention to the sanctions problem and the extent of it. It’s the What Next part that I wonder about. A lot of people know how things are. I spent many hours speaking to JSA claimants at jobcentres in 2014 (have posted some of those interviews below) and at least some of those people had complained to their MPs about sanctions and their treatment at jobcentres. Like many people, I can tell you now that there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that stopping jobseekers’ allowance – already a meagre amount of money – to people who have nothing leads to crime and depression. You don’t have to look too closely to understand that that is the whole point of the sanctions/jobcentre/work programme exercise: to push anyone who struggles for work to the edge in one way or another and to terrorise everyone else into tolerating rotten pay and treatment just to keep a job. There’s very little mainstream opposition to that idea. I certainly don’t count this.

Three points of note from 2014:

1) Nobody I met ever got a job or even a job interview through their jobcentre. Not a single person. Everyone I met who found work did so through their own networks, applications and contacts. Jobcentres exist to administer goverment benefits policy and to channel people to the work programme and so-called skills courses, in my view. Wonder when jobcentres will be wholly outsourced.

2) Quite a few of the people I met who were signing on were actually employed for some of the time – on zero hours contracts, or short-term contracts, or on such low and irregular pay that they needed hardship loans and some JSA support. This is one of the many reasons why I find Labour’s ongoing justification of sanctions regimes in some form or other utterly misguided (I have other words, but am keeping it clean for the New Year). Pisstaking JSA claimants aren’t the problem. Pisstaking employers are the problem. That’s where the entire political emphasis should be. People I spoke to weren’t signing on for the lulz, believe me. They were signing on because it wasn’t possible for them to support themselves in an ongoing way at current rates and means of pay. Or they were stuck in workfare “jobs” that should have been paid and paid properly. Tinkering with sanctions policy hardly addresses the fact that sanctions in any form are about terrorising people into insecure, low-paid work and keeping them there. Let’s stop pretending that sanctions are about “mutual obligation” and other long-dated bollocks.

3) So-called long-term barriers to work like literacy problems are now insurmountable, not least because support and disability advisory services are nowhere to be found, in my experience, at least. People who could use support are left to rot. For more on that, read the series of articles I wrote last year where I attended jobcentre signon sessions with a Kilburn man who has learning and literacy difficulties. The longest advisory or support session he had at the jobcentre during all that time probably lasted ten minutes and that included waiting time. Other than that, he’d be sent on courses and then come back, and then I’d help him with his job applications. This man’s jobsearch hours mostly entailed hanging out with me in Costa and filling out job application forms that I knew employers would chuck straight in the bin.

There was no doubt in my mind that unless he or someone he knew found him a job using other contacts, he’d be stuck in the system forever and serve out his time as work programme and JSA skills course fodder. Which was surely the point of the exercise and the reason that nobody lifted a finger to find him a job. It has certainly occurred to me that so-called “skills course” providers need a regular pool of long-term unemployed people, so that they can continue to charge for course provision (you can read more about these useless, but compulsory, courses here). Certainly, I’ve spoken to people who’ve been on course after course for years, to no avail. If they complain and say a course is a waste of time and public money because they’ve already been on it, they’re sanctioned. The DWP told me that straight out – that if people complained and refused to attend, they’d be sanctioned. In other words – private sector course providers will get their dosh and anyone who doesn’t like it will be flattened.

And a fourth point while we’re here – people freely say that they rob and steal when they’ve been sanctioned. Some even say that they’d prefer to be in jail than trying to make it in the so-called real world. I’d say a society has reached a pivotal point when people say that they’d prefer jail or death to carrying on – that jail or death are their feasible options. Hope the work and pensions committee gets that. I’m pretty sure that the government gets it. And enjoys it. And is up for plenty more.

Let’s hear from a few people on some of these points:

Robbing and stealing:

Daniel, Hammersmith jobcentre, June 2014:

“Only work I’m getting is if I become a drug dealer, or if I go and rob someone. That’s all I can do – go out and do illegal scrapping, or get some cash in hand. These lot in here – they don’t care. They are not trying to find me a job. They say “go out and look for a job.

“I’ve been signing on here for six years and I’ve been up down, up down, up down. I’ve been on every course you could possibly have, but I still ain’t got a job out of it. I want to do anything just to earn a pay packet, basically. I don’t want to live off the jobcentre for the rest of my life.

“I done every work programme that they can possibly give me. I been to Acton College to do their work programme. I been to Aldgate East to do their work programme. I been to Work Directions…

“Like before when they stopped my money, they said you ain’t got money to eat – go to a foodbank. They give you some little piece of paper saying this person is from the jobcentre and they need food, but I been down there and the food they give me wouldn’t even survive me for three days.”

Read the rest.


Chris, Hammersmith jobcentre, June 2014: An ex-prisoner:

“I went to Tescos to steal. I don’t care.”

“If you put the money in an alcoholic’s account, he’s just going to spend it. And then get evicted [for not paying rent]. Which is what they [the government] want…I have suffered here [at the jobcentre] from sanctions. I had to go shoplifting, because they stopped my money. When the police arrested me, I told them why. I told the courts – it was because [I was late] five minutes [to the jobcentre]. There’s no flexibility. I even produced a replacement bus ticket because the bus broke down. I was still sanctioned. When I signed on, they didn’t tell me that “your money ain’t going to be there.” Very nasty. So when I signed on, I went to draw my money. Nothing there. I didn’t eat for a day or two and my electricity….

“I go to prison and come out and go to prison and come out. My local is the Scrubs. They know me.”

Read the rest


In and out of low-paid work:

Noreen, in her 40s, at Neasden jobcentre, February 2014:

“You can go into Ikea and they might say “go online” but they might say – “here’s an application form”. If it is your lucky day. That’s how you get a job if it is temporary. That happened to me [with a major retailer] over the Christmas period. [The woman I met at the store], she said “go online” but then she said “since you have come in, you can fill in an application form “and that’s how I got two months’ work over Christmas.”

“I’ve been on the work programme for two weeks – it was writing your CV, learning how to attach your CV to an email. But I can do that. It was to build your confidence. But what I need to do is find a job. I want just a job, any job.

“I have to come every two weeks to sign on. They are a bit stroppy. You can’t say nothing to them, because if you argue back to them, the security is there and they will sanction you…You come here like you’re some bloody scrounger….I used to work at McVitie’s for 22 years – you know, the factory. They gave us redundancy. Since then, I have done carework and I’ve worked in supermarkets. I think I’ll have to go back into carework…

“Sometimes,with care work, the hours are zero hours, so you don’t know this week if you would get 16 hours [the number of hours you must work under to claim JSA]. You may get ten or 11 hours and then you have to come here and sign on to make it up to the 16 hours. It’s impossible. You’re trapped and there’s no way out.”

Read the rest


Gio, 19. Kilburn jobcentre. Working part time as a supermarket manager and looking for a hardship loan. Didn’t want to go back to drug dealing for cash:

“I’m a manager and I’m still getting the minimum wage – £655 a month working about 25 hours. I showed them [the jobcentre] my payslips and I got a letter from my manager saying look, I need more help. I’m young and I got a kid and I don’t want to be on the streets drug dealing and stuff to earn the money, because I’ve been through that stage. The lady turns around and says “that is all we can do,” and I said “okay, well if that’s all you can do, I’m going to sort it out somehow.” I don’t want to go back to my old life… I work about 25 hours a week. It’s hard to work more [at the moment] because my wife is very ill. She’s had a cesarean. It will take her a couple of months. I just hope they help me.”

Read the rest here

10 thoughts on “Pretty sure the government wants death, depression and crime for people who are out of work

  1. I was broken by the DWP, they seriously made me want to kill myself.. but only because of my mum and dog did i go and ask for help.. i couldnt break out of the bad part.. the constant calling me a skiver, languishing on the dole.. they drove me to the lowest point in my life. and this was without a sanction threat.. I am scared of the future, am terrified what if i go the the next dwp meeting and there is no reason to carry on.. because of their treatment of me.. when even my work programme advisor says you need to be in the support group..even though i am on medication for depression it doesnt really work when you are constantly pushed every second…i have even considered doing a major crime to get into jail because in there i would be left alone, and i have never committed a crime in my entire life

  2. Prison is fast becoming a viable option, at least you get fed + a roof over your head, and no jobsearch to do. Personally though I’m just sitting it out ’til I die. Perhaps another 20 yrs left if I’m unlucky. Can’t wait.

  3. If/when my JSA is ‘sanctioned’ , which may happen soon enough, I will have no qualms whatsoever about committing crime, probably low-level drug dealing (as I have done in my distant past) and/or shoplifting.

    • Fair play. I really think this government expects everyone to die quietly. Can’t see Rachel Reeves turning this over either. That lot seems still to be under the impression that there is room for mutual agreement between people claiming JSA and the political class.

  4. There is an urgent need for a judicial review so that staff and managers at Jobcenters are criminally indicted for stitching-up claimants.

    Four months ago, I asked the UN to open an investigation into Britain’s benefit-sanctions regime; my letter to then High Commissioner Navi Pillay can be found here: A newly announced inquiry into how the benefit sanctions regime is administered is to be mounted by the Department for Work and Pensions select committee. There is also an urgent need for a moratorium on benefit sanctions as a result of the tragic death of David Clapson (

    Not only are Jobcentre staff and DWP decision makers incompetent and medically unqualified, they are under severe pressure to strip claimants of their benefits.

    Matthew Oakley’s independent review of JSA sanctions ( was limited in its remit to improving the way sanctions were communicated to claimants. His recommendations are relatively cosmetic and minor; that’s why the DWP has agreed to implement them. On the whole, I’ve labelled his review a ‘whitewash’, for it ignores inappropriate sanctions, Jobcentre targets to take away benefits, and serious accusations by a whistle-blower of benefit claimant stitching-up.

    In my opinion, Jobcentre staff are knowingly engaging in conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation. I strongly suspect that the DWP is involved in a cover-up of egregious or inappropriate benefit sanctions.

    ‘Mandatory reconsideration’ and the benefits backlog are likely dissuading benefit claimants with progressive medical conditions (–despite-no-possibility-of-improvement-9811910.html; open in private tab, if necessary ) from appealing their placement in the work-related activity group. They are being “parked” in the WRAG as a cost-saving measure and should consider suing the government because they are rightly entitled to a higher rate of ESA.

    Furthermore, I recently wrote both Nick Clegg and Rachel Reeves, requesting that their respective political parties adopt as official policy the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendation that calls on the Government to pay sick and disabled people benefits while they appeal against incorrect ‘Fit for Work’ decisions. It’s a sensible proposal based on humanitarian grounds and to prevent further tragic suicides, like this one (, from occurring. A few days ago, I wrote Disability Minister Mark Harper: Does the DWP intend to implement this recommendation?, I asked. (In retrospect, that Work and Pensions committee recommendation should be expanded to include payments while waiting for PIP decisions and the benefits backlog to be cleared—but paying ESA claimants while they wait for appeal decisions would be an important first step.)

    I would strongly recommend that benefit claimants who have been inappropriately sanctioned contact the Work & Pensions Committee to provide evidence for their inquiry. The Committee’s contact information can be found here: Claimants who believe that they are being ‘stitched-up’ should consider obtaining their DWP and Jobcentre personal files.

    Full disclosure: Since January 2012, I have been reporting voluntarily to the UN’s human rights office, in Geneva, on the welfare crisis for Britain’s sick and disabled. (My list of welfare-related deaths of UK’s sick and disabled can be found here:

    Montreal, Canada

    • Update: Re Committee launch inquiry into benefit sanctions – News from Parliament – UK Parliament

      The scope of the inquiry, as proposed, isn’t aggressive and thorough enough, and frankly I’m not surprised. Select Committees are prohibited from investigating individual cases because of barriers presented by the Data Protection Act. I’d like to point out that the Act can be circumvented by requesting that witnesses obtain their personal files from the DWP and Jobcentre.

      Will the inquiry hear from whistleblowers and investigate inappropriate sanctions, Jobcentre targets to take away benefits, and serious accusations of benefit claimant stitching-up?

      Ever since the Work and Pensions Committee announced an inquiry into Britain’s benefits sanction regime, I’ve been concerned that the investigation would not be sufficiently wide-ranging. In July, when MPs in Parliament debated the Work and Pensions Committee’s report into the role of Jobcentre Plus, the use of sanctions was repeatedly mentioned—but no one cited this article ( and its serious allegation that benefit claimants were being ‘stitched-up.’

      The DWP has a history of antagonism towards its overseer, the Work and Pensions Committee, which might explain the “soft” benefit sanctions inquiry. The Committee may have no desire to be at loggerheads with an uncooperative Iain Duncan Smith—or its conceivable that Labour may still support the use of benefit sanctions, if elected, and therefore wishes to be superficial in its investigation.

      It is also possible that the Tory Committee members only agreed to a ‘watered down’ inquiry and nothing more substantive.

      The fact that the Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into Britain’s benefit sanctions policy will not be investigating individual cases will likely disappoint Gill Thompson, who has been calling for an investigation into the death of her brother, David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died starving and penniless after his benefits were stopped.

      Neither will the Committee be investigating the use of sanctions in this recent case (, nor endeavoring to determine the fate of 340 disabled people who had their benefits stopped for three years after three offenses (; open in private tab or window, if necessary).

      I intend to wait until the Work and Pensions Committee releases its report before taking further action. I may be compelled to request that the UN open its own wide-ranging inquiry into this matter. The UN always prefers that domestic remedies be exhausted before filing complaints or inquiry requests with their human rights office, located in Geneva, Switzerland.

      If select committees are prohibited from investigating individual cases, then it is clear that a public inquiry into Britain’s benefit sanctioning regime is needed. The terms of reference of the Work and Pensions inquiry into this matter are woefully inadequate.

      Tomorrow’s meeting of the Work and Pensions Committee:

      07 January 2015 9:30 AM
      Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review
      View details
      Witness(es): Tony Wilson, Policy Director, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, Philip J Connolly, Policy and Communications Manager, Disability Rights UK, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, Employment Related Services Association, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive Officer, Mind and Matthew Oakley, author of the independent review of JSA sanctions validated by the Jobseekers Act 2013; Keith Dryburgh, Policy Manager, Citizens Advice Scotland, Professor Peter Dwyer, Professor of Social Policy, University of York, and Principal Investigator, Welfare Conditionality project, Nikki Hart, Blackpool Food Partnership Co-ordinator, Methodist Action North West, Chris Mould, Chairman, The Trussell Trust and Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow

      The Grimond Room, Portcullis House

  5. Prison is not an option because men will get raped by other inmates. Women will also get assaulted by other women. Career criminals are very violent people and so there is the danger of being seriously injured. You are not in a prison cell on your own in any prison. And prisons causes mental breakdown, not least because you are locked up for so many hours a day, when it is not possible to do association or work.

    And drug dealing makes a person a walking corpse, as the main reason for murders are gang land shootings into your home by drive by shootings or following you one dark night and stabbing you to death. Your families are also at risk of murder, not least by arson of your home, even if you have a baby. Gangs are totally callous and can shoot a baby mother holding her baby in amongst other innocents in your garden or on the street, nothing to do with your drug dealing.

    Once the general election is over and we have this 4-way hung parliament, the UN can return to investigate the early deaths caused by benefit sanctions months long (it takes a month to starve to death on average).

    Meanwhile an inquiry by politicians is totally a waste of time and saves not one life. It is just electioneering by Labour against the Tories, when the pundits predict an equal amount of MP seats between the two parties in parliament in 2015.

    What is needed is to protest through Labour that Fareshare (the supplier of all food banks) does not get 100 per cent of all surplus food, so gain the full around 400,000 tonnes and not a mere 5,000 tonnes of food as now.

    And that is by the food banks talking direct to the food industry and using such as the doctors who are informing of the massive rise of malnutrition hospital admissions.

    Such as the doctors can say the starvation is a burden on the cash strapped NHS.

    In EU nations, councils / charities provide a free cafe to the working poor, unemployed, and poor pensioners each and every day.

  6. Pingback: Pretty sure the government wants death, depression and crime for people who are out of work | Kate Belgrave | Britain Isn't Eating

  7. I have committed over 100 Burglaries, stolen so much over the last couple of years just to live, buy food etc since my money was stopped back in Jan 1st 2013 and because of now having to maybe go 10 years with no money and my age 57 years old I am not sure of if I will even get a pension too. So over the next 3 years I have to plan on possible another 100 – 300 plus Burglaries and many other crimes to have a fall back plan of around £20,000 – £30,000 to last me in my pension years. IF and only IF I do get pension money I will give away all I have taking to homeless and people who have been sanctions. My full story is here :- I am not a writer so forgive me with how I worded stuff…..

    NO I am not proud of myself for breaking the law but I need to eat, live and survive

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