Decisions Facing Rachel Reeves on 8/5/15 (6: ‘Welfare Reforms’ & Addressing Issue of Sanctions) #GE2015


Number 6: Unpicking Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Welfare Reforms’ and Addressing the Matter of Sanctions

One assumes that Labour will have (well before next May) a reasonably well worked out set of policies designed to address the problems left behind by IDS. Problems resulting from the delivery (and development) of ESA; the roll out of the Personal Independence Payment; the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund; the transfer of Council Tax Benefit to local authorities and so on.

In addition, the sanctions policy, so much beloved of IDS and certain senior DWP officials, needs to be returned to its default settings. I cannot think of any better place to begin the rebuilding of trust between DWP and its clients. DWP’s unfair, arbitrary and indiscriminate deployment of sanctions against the vast majority of its clients, those doing their level best to find work, is a disgrace. It runs counter to the whole idea of the public service ethos. How can one talk of a contract between DWP and individual jobseekers, when DWP rewrites the contract between signing days?

In my day (sounding like old style copper), we applied sanctions with discretion. We also got a ticking off for submitting inappropriate or poorly evidenced sanctions for Adjudication. We were, more than once I recall, told to send fewer, but better quality submissions. God knows what yesterday’s adjudicators would think of today’s successful appeals against decision figures. There is a place for sanctions; a tiny minority do play the system, probably the same percentage that commit tax fraud. There is, however, no rationale for stigmatising people on social security, unless one wants the evidence with which to make a case to dismantle the Welfare State. A libertarian stance?

The vast number of sanctions that DWP is applying is wasteful of both time and money. They are also, by extension, making it harder for people to find work, increasing levels of poverty and forcing more people to rely on food banks.

As an aside, if there are many more jobs around, why are we not seeing a lot of refusal of suitable employment sanctions rather than the vast number of doubtful, nit picking ones?


11 thoughts on “Decisions Facing Rachel Reeves on 8/5/15 (6: ‘Welfare Reforms’ & Addressing Issue of Sanctions) #GE2015

  1. Agree with the article, though would say that this sanctions policy by the DWP is in many respects,just another form of stigmatising certain groups. This is nothing new unfortunately (The New Poor Law of 1834 being a another way is which certain people were seen as less eligible for relief)


  2. Elizabeth I’s sturdy beggars take us even further back.

    The bread handed out to the poor of Rome used to be known as a dole. Of course, they got circuses too!

    The poor and undeserving poor have always been with us, but that is a topic for yet another post!


  3. Joanna

    Sanctions are a legalised form of economic abuse! People are walking on eggshells trying to see if their advisor is having a good or a bad day, or if they have the misfortune to have a jobs worth advisor.
    Are we children to be constantly punished? Which begs the question, who on earth would treat any child so inhumanly? ( apart from IDS aka RTU )!!!


  4. Catherine

    I was told last weekend of an advisor who said that she enjoyed giving people sanctions in the week before Christmas. The current system is attracting a few rogues who then give the decent people working for the DWP a bad name and affects trust. This is bound to have a knock on effect on morale and will mean that decent people leave and are replaced by more rogues, leaving vulnerable people at risk. People have already died because of the sanction system, it will happen more frequently unless something is done urgently. I’m currently hanging onto a job where I am being subjected to disability discrimination and bullying just because I am terrified of the thought of being at the mercy of the DWP.


  5. don’t agree with the few bad apples theory – the entire rejigged benefits system is morally depraved, and that is because that depravity flows from the top. The sanctions regime should be suspended completely, except for in cases of egregious abuse of the system. Also, some new principles really need to be established, in the wake of the Coalition’s gleeful rush to sociopathic remedies, ie, that the benefits system exists to keep people from starving and to help them keep a roof over their heads. That should be considered to be the absolute baseline. As for work/training related matters, that should be de-prioritised and shifted to a voluntary basis – unemployment can be depressing and have a downward effect on self-esteem, but compulsion and punishment strips claimants of dignity and self-determination and increases avoidable suffering, rather than minimising it.


    • It is not a theory. I sat on the other side of the desk from that small group as a Civil Servant over twenty years ago. I threatened some of them with sanctions, including daily signing and, when they gave me no alternative I sanctioned them without a qualm. Quite often they were working class Tories. A cross between Alf Garnett and Uriah Heap, eager to please and eager to say most other people on Social Security undeserving, unlike them of course. However, quite often they were not actively seeking work and/or available for work. I considered their behaviour to be egregious and, unlike today, our decisions were rarely overturned on appeal. But then we made a lot fewer than today.

      Also, there are criminal elements claiming Social Security, but they are not soft targets. There are collusive employers, but they create problems for those who believe (private sector) employers can do no wrong. Also, they are npot soft targets for investigation and action either.

      I do not disagree with your other points. You will find my rationale for doing so in a number of my blog posts. I would say though, from my experience, that the vast majority of those on JSA, who are doing their utmost to find work, mightmake take exception at a relaxation of the rules to the point where those they resent (for not doing as they do) might get away scot free.


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