The DWP will give staff bonuses for forcing more Universal Credit claimants into work

A jobcentre queue the Universal Credit and DWP logos - representing benefits claimants childcare
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is once again going to threaten Universal Credit claimants with sanctions. This will happen if they don’t follow new rules around finding work. Worse still, DWP staff will be given bonuses for getting more benefits claimants into work. So, effectively, the DWP is incentivising its Jobcentre advisors to push as many claimants into any job possible – regardless of whether the work is right, or the claimant can even do it.

Universal Credit: claimants will be targets for staff bonuses

BBC News reported on a leaked internal DWP document which outlined the new scheme. The department will reportedly be running a pilot of it in 60 Jobcentres. BBC News noted that:

Staff will be set targets, or what the document calls “into work stretch aspirations”.

The DWP will also force Universal Credit claimants who have been on the benefit for 13 weeks to do more to keep getting their money. They will have to go to the Jobcentre every weekday for two weeks. If they don’t do this, the DWP will sanction them. The DWP is calling this “intensive support”. With this, the department will make a league table of which Jobcentres force the most Universal Credit claimants into work. The DWP will give staff at the top-performing centres bonuses of £250 in shopping vouchers. ‘Runners-up’ will get £125.

‘Almost bully like’

The DWP told the BBC that:

It is right that we reward our staff when they go above and beyond, and helping people to secure, stay in, and succeed in work is a key government priority.

However, people on social media quickly pointed out the numerous problems with the DWP’s plan for Universal Credit claimants.

Read on...

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A Labour councillor noted how the DWP plan would not support the claimants it needed to:

Someone else pointed out the issues for chronically ill and disabled people – and also the cost to claimants of daily Jobcentre visits:

Another Twitter user summarised how staff treat Universal Credit and other claimants:

Overall, a former DWP staff member summed up some of the problems:

Of course, the reality is that this is just another callous stunt from the DWP. Moreover, the plan is one it’s used before – to disastrous effect.

DWP: bringing back deadly policies

As the Guardian reported in 2013, the DWP was caught up in a scandal over targets. A leaked internal email revealed that Jobcentres were in league tables back then. They ranked the number of claimants staff moved onto tougher benefit regimes – including sanctions. However, the department denied this was widespread policy – despite clear evidence to the contrary. At the time, the number of sanctions was also at a record high.

Moreover, the DWP giving staff targets in 2013 coincided with the emergence of evidence of claimants dying after the department stopped their benefits by sanctioning them, as well as people taking their own lives after assessors told them they were fit for work.

The DWP’s new plan is merely a repackaging of this previous, horrendous policy. Sadly, it is not surprising that the department is willing to treat Universal Credit claimants like figures on a spreadsheet. Successive governments have dehumanised people on benefits to the point where the department can do a full circle by bringing back a policy that horrifically failed. Yet it is likely many people won’t bat an eyelid.

Featured image via the Guardian – YouTube, Paisley Scotland – Flickr, resized under licence CC BY 2.0, and Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. I used to manage a centre for helping the disabled back to work. We were able to offer companies financial incentives to employ people. Then, along came the coalition and away went the incentives. We became enforcers of attendance and job search through sanctions and we only got paid for getting ‘customers’ into employment for a minimum of 6 months. We of course, went bankrupt and joined the people under that regime which only benefitted the gig economy.
      The coalition also got rid of the one place that gave people with disabilities esteem: Remploy.
      It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

    2. I was sanctioned while on JSA for not applying for a driving job when I didn’t (I still don’t) have a full driving licence. The staff at the Job Centre were aware that I only had a provisional licence at the time but they were desperate for their bonuses that they kept telling me I should be applying for every job whether or not I could actually do it. As a disabled person I really should have been on ESA but every time I tried claiming it I was sent for a review and the nurse decided that I was fit and able to work as long as I didn’t sit for long periods, stand for long periods or walk around for long periods. Unfortunately mattress testers were in short demand at that time.

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