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.

One issue, as I say, is that disability employment advisers are being removed from jobcentres. DEAs weren’t all brilliant – I’ve had mixed experiences with them myself – but they were something, at least. You could argue the role was an acknowledgement that some disabled people who were looking for work required advisers with extra training in disability support.

The other very big issue is that the DWP claims it is replacing DEAs with “tailored support” for disabled people when it is not. I spend a lot of time in jobcentres. I really am not seeing this tailored service.

“Jobseekers now have access to dedicated work coaches, who are trained to provide tailored support specific to their individual needs,” the DWP told me when I asked the department how it planned to support disabled jobseekers as DEAs disappeared. (I asked the DWP for an updated statement on all of this last week and a comment on the West Midlands jobcentre situation. The DWP was supposed to send me a response by Friday. Tis Monday now. I still haven’t been sent a response). I continue to have serious doubts about the existence of this so-called tailored service. That’s because I’ve attended two jobcentre meetings with disabled claimants recently where advisers have made very clear that they can’t offer a tailored service for disabled people at their jobcentres. In both cases, the advisers told me and the people I was with that their jobcentres didn’t have the staff, or the time to give that support. Advisers couldn’t help people fill in job application forms (two of the people I attend with have learning and literacy difficulties), or provide extra assistance.

One adviser at a North London jobcentre said our best bet for help was to move a disabled man’s JSA claim to the Tottenham jobcentre, where two DEAs still worked (you can hear a recording of that conversation here). That adviser has since tried to send this man on yet another CV-writing employability course-thing at Reed (I believe this is the fifth such course that this man has been sent to. That should tell you all you need to know about the effectiveness of these courses). Then, an adviser at Kilburn jobcentre said that the disabled woman I was should attend a jobs-club morning at a local charity, because the charity might be able to offer the sort of support that the jobcentre couldn’t. That adviser said there was still a DEA working at Kilburn, but that the DEA was massively oversubscribed because she now worked across several offices.

“Basically, if someone has got support needs now [at this jobcentre], there is a problem,” I said.

“Big problem,” the adviser told us.

Meanwhile, the woman in the West Midlands wonders what will happen when her son’s sick note expires. This man requires considerable support in his day-to-day life. His mother feels that he’d find strict jobsearch requirements very difficult to meet without intensive support. “I do all his shopping,” his mother says. “Some days, he doesn’t even open the post, so it builds up. He opened it yesterday and discovered that someone was coming round to do a gas check. He went into a panic because somebody was coming to his home today and he couldn’t cope with that. He phoned me and I have had to make another appointment when I could be there.” As I say – she attends his jobcentre meetings with him.

Not all DEAs were or are brilliant, as I say, but they were probably better than nothing, which seems to be the alternative, in my experience at least. DEAs sometimes acted as a buffer against benefit sanctions for disabled people, too. This is important. I’ve attended meetings where a DEA said that she wouldn’t sanction the disabled person I was with, because she understood the reasons why that person struggled to meet jobsearch requirements. Other advisers may not understand, or care. This issue needs addressing, fast. Iain Duncan Smith plans to push more and more sick or disabled people off disability benefits and onto jobseekers’ allowance at jobcentres. I wouldn’t be getting too excited about the so-called “tailored support” that they’ll find when they get there.

12 thoughts on “How disabled benefit claimants are being set up for sanctions

  1. I’m always amazed how these new attitudes to the unemployed, have come to be accepted as entirely reasonable.
    That our government now forces seriously sick and disabled people to work against their will. Despite their pain, suffering and distress.
    On crutches, in wheelchairs, some with terminal conditions. All callously disregarded.
    Bullied and intimidated by the DWP, which seems to think it can do just as it likes with benefit claimants, sick or not. Where are the British People in all this ?
    If it were dogs being treated in this way, there would soon be an outcry.

  2. You’re probably right about the dogs. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s probably that they don’t know how this stuff “works” until they have to be part of it. I feel that the mainstream press just takes press statements from the government and its departments and won’t look any further under the bonnet. The only way to find out what is really going on in some of these jobcentres is to go into them.

    • When you talk to journalists, they just seem to throw a blank, Talking to them they seem to throw the attitude that It can’t possibly be that bad, so you must be making it up

      • I think it’s partly that and partly that the mainstream thrives on clicks and drama. Actually – it’s more than a simply thriving. Media outlets depend on those things.

        I’m talking about process failures here, which is as important but a different sort of thing. One thing you notice when you spend some time at jobcentres – there are the really bad moments, definitely, but there’s also hours and hours of pointless, meaningless fuck-all. There are the endless signon meetings, hopeless work-employability courses, the trudging back and forwards to jobcentres for work-focused interviews which everyone involved agrees are totally useless and a mere box-ticking exercise and all the rest of it.

        That part of things is as important to report, but it isn’t necessarily dramatic in the way that would go viral in the way that the mainstream needs stories to go viral. It’s more about the slow degrading of a service and the people who use it.

  3. I wonder whether with this government (and colleague governments in other countries) there is an unspoken (in public anyway) plan to drive people to suicide in some bizarre Darwinian exercise where they have decided that they are going to build social policy around a ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy, wherein slowly but surely the weakest members of society are lost and just fall off the map.

    Heads will be shaken, and false and empty messages of concern will be mouthed, and meanwhile the policy will continue, so that slowly but surely people disappear into prisons, psychiatric units or the cemetery and that this is the specific (but secret) plan after all is said and done. I cannot think of any other rational explanation for the behaviour of government policy makers.

    • As I have commented on previous posts, the trend is to kill of the sick, to endept the Countries people, just see the new one, homeless people to be fined £1000, and if they had it, they would probably be in accomodation (an endepted person is easier to enslave) so the reality is, that they only want the people left that are able to work, and not for pay, if you think any government values our lives, you are sadly mistaken, look at the indescriminate bombings, the control of the media, the laws preventing people meeting up to discuss things, all have been done over a period of time, all the different parties that have been in power, have been instigating this for decades, school fees, seperation of rich and poor. Monitors to watch and hear your every movement, (and no this is not a conspiricy theory, it is factual) sorry for spelling, but a lot of pain in my hands

  4. I quite often make stupid mistakes and because of medication side effects if someone has a go at me I retaliate, there is no way I could hold down a job. Who would employ someone if they knew my making a mistake could potentially end their life?

  5. The man in the West Midlands who signs on with help from his mother, needs to appeal against the decision to find him it for work. I am not an expert on the time limits. But mother and son definitely need to get advice on that asap.

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