Sanctions for people who need them least and struggle the most. Let’s hear it for the DWP!

Actually – let’s not.

We’re back at Stockport jobcentre:

First thing that happens – a security guard who over summer has made a keen, if hopeless, effort to befriend our protest group hurries out the front to pass on a dire and utterly vague warning. He’s done this a couple of times over the months – trotted out to alert us to some potential drama or other which I’ve never had enough coffee to get my head around.

“If you see the doors shut, it would mean something is going on,” the guard says, pointing meaningfully at the jobcentre doors. “It would be a good idea to move your protest… it’s your safety I’m worried about.”

My first thought is Sanctions – as in the jobcentre is planning to sanction someone who will (rightly) take it so badly that the jobcentre is planning to restrict the audience*.

Could be a repeat sanction for someone who didn’t respond too well to earlier ones. Jobcentres have long had an intriguing habit of laying repeat sanctions on people who are most likely to struggle to manage, or even remember, jobsearch commitments – which is, of course, why they keep getting sanctioned. These are people with addiction problems, mental health problems, prison histories and/or chaotic lives after years in care and in prison. The DWP seems to have this idea that even if you sleep in a ditch half the week, you should be up at dawn to log your commitments in Trello. Less mention is made of the fact that people haven’t got much support for learning ways to keep to the DWP’s meaningless routines, because the Tories have spent 12 years binning support. A lot of the people I speak with can barely read.

Let’s face it, too – even when you’ve done the right thing, the assumption will be that you haven’t. For instance: I’ve been talking in recent times with Barry, who has been in and out of prison for about 13 years, and totally at sea since he last left jail 4 years back. Barry says his most recent sanction (there have been a few) came about because the DWP said he’d failed to attend a work course that he was actually at.

“They said I hadn’t turned up, but I was there. I got the guy [who was running the course] on the phone to the jobcentre and he said “Barry’s been here.” There followed the usual one-way conversation where you try to explain and explain and explain, and begin to half-feel you’re on mute. I’ve done this with people more often that I care to recall – sat in a jobcentre office trying to get the DWP to see sense about a sanction, or even a wrongful claim closure. You talk on and on, and the DWP stares at you in silence like it is measuring you for a coffin. It’s like spending a morning trying to justify a new food to your cat.

Paul is another guy we’ve seen several times here. He lives in Brinnington and has been out of work a long while. Brinnington is well known in Stockport as the part of town where people with addiction and mental health problems are dumped.

Paul says that the jobcentre treats him well, except for the times when it doesn’t. He doesn’t expect this to change and it obviously won’t. The trick, it seems, is to know how to ride it out when a sanction hits – or at least to know how to appear indifferent to the DWP’s ongoing attempts to nail you.

“I’ve been sanctioned all the time,” Paul says, pushing a hint of fatalist cheer. “With the sanctions – sometimes I’m bothered and sometimes I’m not. I just carry on with life” – by which people usually mean they pinch food, or cash if they see it (a rarer event in our contactless era) until their benefits start again.

Paul says his last sanction was a month or so ago. He says he missed a signon meeting because he was sick.

“I’ve got this sickness called COPD, but when I put my sick note [in to the jobcentre], I got my mate to do it for me and they never let him do it.” It seems this is a sanction that does bother Paul, because he wants to appeal it – even though he’s probably out of time. Not to worry, though. He can appeal the next sanction. Doubtless, it’ll be along very soon.

*We didn’t find out what happened at the jobcentre that day, but I can report that someone did turn up to smash a bottle of something into the building. Can’t say the closed jobcentre doors contributed much there, because it took place outside.

30 thoughts on “Sanctions for people who need them least and struggle the most. Let’s hear it for the DWP!

  1. Claiming unemployment benefits is a never-ending nightmare. The DWP/JCP are not happy no matter what you do and never will be happy until you either sign-off or die, whether you get a job, or Retire, or snuff it, so long as you stop claiming. Having said that, at the moment though, the Jobcentre are giving me an easy time because I’m on the Work & Health Programme, so attending my fortnightly JCP appointment is seemingly reduced to a formality, just to confirm my identity in order to make the next appointment. No signing anymore in the post-Covid Jobcentre, no need for the once obligatory signature or the legal Declaration that was always deemed to be so imperative. Just confirm your postcode and here’s your next appointment.

  2. So the scum are still at it.

    And whilst we have two conservative partys, it will continue.
    Don’t make any long term plans….

    I suppose there is some flickering comfort to see that some of the victims of this filth have hardened themselves to it, and see it as part of the system that they must go though; must endure, to survive.
    Geez, how the fuck do they do it?

  3. It’s the endlessness of it that does my head in… you could time travel years in either direction to any jobcentre anywhere and it’d still be exactly the same. Sanctioned for a bit, left alone for a bit. Sanctioned for a bit, left alone for a bit. Jesus. END IT.

    • Avoiding Sanctions becomes a full time occupation in itself, and is very debilitating in the long-term. You have to constantly stay one step ahead of the game and not everyone can keep that up indefinitely. Cover your back, apply for relevant jobs, keep evidence, don’t be late for any appointment, ever. Attend all and any schemes, courses or unpaid work placements you’re sent on. Be punctual. Print out job emails or keep on phone in a folder. Apply for any jobs you are told to apply for and keep proof of that. Do this and all of the above religiously, always, and forever and ever, Amen.

  4. Needless to say (tho it has been said for years) – there’s fuck all evidence that sanctions work, whatever “work” means in that context. You’re hardly going to learn whatever lesson the DWP is intent on teaching if the reason that you miss meetings is that you can’t read or write and/or the DWP advises you that you have a meeting after the event, etc

    Basically, the main result of a sanction is that it makes people poorer, as anything which takes money away from people without money would.

    Interesting read here by the public law project:

    “The current system of benefit sanctions has been shown to have a profoundly negative impact on the health, finances and wellbeing of those affected. There is also little evidence that they work – and a risk that they may in fact push people further away from sustainable employment.”

  5. I’m so damn sorry, I really am.

    I know that any improvement of this system will not occure in my lifetime. I was born under a King’s ‘rule’, and unfortunately for a republican!), will die under one.
    Long life the King, and sod the fucking people.

  6. Did the DWP ever release the sanctions report that they wrote, but refused to release? I stopped looking at the news for a while, because it was doing my head in, so am not sure. Have stopped looking at the news again this week, because the mournathon is doing my head in.

  7. I was at the Work Programme (Reed “Better Working Futures”) yesterday and again today (and at the Jobcentre Tuesday). What’s the point in referring (mandating under threat of Sanctions) people in their 60s to Back-to-Work schemes?

    • I couldn’t agree more. A career for 3 years. That is a joke in itself.

      I had to point out to RIP that the first thing that David Porkeron and Lord Ashcroft did in 2010, before their great falling out. Was make it easier to get rid of older workers.

      All I hear from them is a barrage of meaningless buzzwords that totally fail to provide any inspiration whatsoever.

      • They’ve been bombarding me with txt messages about temporary Xmas work at B&M ffs as if I’m going to mess up my Benefits claim for that shite, not that I would get the job anyway with no retail or cash-handling experience.

        • As far as B&M are concerned all that matters is if you are cheap to employ! That said I haven’t seen any employees that are close to retirement in any of the Luton and Dunstable B&Ms

          I had that last year about M&S Not that M&S were interested in employing me…

          Again I do have to say that the customer experience in the larger stores leads us to avoid them like the plague

  8. Bloody hell Trev. You really are a mine of information!

    Right. Off raping and pillaging for a coupla days.

    Hats off to you two. I mean that.

  9. If the proposed cuts go ahead they will also affect the DWP /JCP as well as every other Gov. department and service. As the FT said, “Plans to axe 91,000 UK civil servants would ‘cut public services’”. No kidding Sherlock. They will be run on a shoestring and be even less efficient than they are now! And it seems that Truss is going along with Johnson’s ruthless plan to reduce the size of government.

    • It is time the DWP fucked off.

      We’re starting to notice that at the jobcentre – people saying they’re getting the hard word about coming in for meetings. Spoke to one person last week who had been told they had to come in for work-related meetings, even though they were signed off with a sick note. That’s not actually the way it is supposed to work.

      • The fuckers at the JCP will try it on, as they did with me a few years back when they tried imposing UC 35 hour jobsearch rules on to JSA claimants. Benefit Sanctions are immoral and should be illegal. There is too much poverty as it is and we’re facing an economic crisis due to the aftermath of the Pandemic combined with Brexit and the war with Russia. Energy prices are becoming increasingly unaffordable and foodbanks are operating at maximum capacity. Meanwhile, Truss, a firm believer in the mythological ‘trickle-down economy’ is about to remove the cap on Bankers’ bonuses. We’re fucked.

    • The fact that they’ve now done away with ‘light touch’ UC for part-time workers means that there is absolutely no point in applying for part-time jobs now that all UC claimants are to be put in the full jobsearch group (even if they are working 24 hours a week). Luckily I’m still one of the few thousand people still in receipt of ‘legacy’ JSA and so am not obliged to apply for part-time work, only full-time under JSA rules, so they can go fuck themselves.

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