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?