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’
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.
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A Labour councillor noted how the DWP plan would not support the claimants it needed to:
Been here before. All that will happen is the 'low hanging fruit' become cash cows and those in greatest need of help get parked because there's no monetary incentive to help them. Job Entry claiming doesn't work; far too open to manipulation.https://t.co/9QV0LDEsrI
— Kevin Osborne (@skinoverbone) February 27, 2023
Someone else pointed out the issues for chronically ill and disabled people – and also the cost to claimants of daily Jobcentre visits:
The nearest job centre to me is 1.5 miles away-So if I was unemployed for 13 weeks I would be faced with walking 30 minutes either way every working day for 2 weeks. https://t.co/eiefrO2IP5 or spending £40 on bus fares. What about people with mobility problems?
— Andy Birss (@1957AJB) February 27, 2023
Another Twitter user summarised how staff treat Universal Credit and other claimants:
I would never work in a job centre. The staff are awful. Almost bully like. But with incentives like this it’s no wonder. It’s not them who get ppl into work, it’s the individuals who present well in interviews! https://t.co/7gWOgVnEmd
— Janine (@JKL_nini_30) February 27, 2023
Overall, a former DWP staff member summed up some of the problems:
As a former staff member, this creates negative behaviour with staff haranguing people into unsuitable jobs and ignoring underlying issues (disability, domestic violence), not to mention dubious employers not being checked. https://t.co/B5XKtwmn67
— Celia_O (@CeliaEquality) February 27, 2023
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.Support us and go ad-free
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