The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released a new video about benefit fraud. It’s cringe, to say the least. However, when you look beyond the appalling Hollywood parody, it actually shows the department is increasing its hardline approach to dealing with benefit claimants – not that this is new.
Benefit fraud: a right-wing fairytale
In 2020/21, much of the so-called fraud the DWP believed happened was actually due to either organised crime, the DWP changing the way it categorises fraud, or it was based on flimsy evidence. For example, it claimed total fraud that year was £8.3bn. However, £1.9bn of that was from organised crime. It also doesn’t base some fraud on any evidence. As the DWP admitted:
Any Fraud that is Causal Link (Low Suspicion) has been recategorised to a new category of “Failure to provide evidence/fully engage in the process”. Cases with an error in this new category have forgone their full benefit entitlement rather than engage in the benefit review process. We therefore make the assumption that the claim was fraudulent, even though the reason for their non-engagement is not clear.
So, it bases some of its fraud estimates on assumptions. However, this hasn’t stopped the DWP peddling the lie that benefit fraud is a huge problem – as it’s latest campaign shows.
DWP: our skills make us a nightmare for people like you
The new video the department has released is beyond Orwellian satire. Minister for disabled people Tom Pursglove is seen on a police raid, wearing a bullet-proof vest with “DWP” emblazoned upon it. He watches as cops cart-away a ‘fraudster’. The minister for disabled people says, like he’s landed the lead role in Taken 4 (because Liam Neeson didn’t want to be involved in this shit):
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"We will track you down. We will find you. And we will bring you to justice" – Minister for Disabled People @VotePursglove
At DWP we have a very particular set of skills that we use in conjuction with the police to tackle fraud
— Department for Work and Pensions (@DWPgovuk) April 20, 2023
It is beyond parody. However, it’s actually also very serious. As many people pointed out on Twitter, this public display of aggression and force by the DWP is wholly inappropriate when dealing with chronically ill and disabled people:
Disgusting. The minister for disabled people focusing on fraud rather than fighting for disabled people? This has made me furious. We will never gain a fair go with this as our spokesperson. Reinforcing the myth of disability benefit fraud? Honestly I'm spitting! https://t.co/ttMuq0bTLQ
— Mik Scarlet (@MikScarlet) April 21, 2023
Users also pointed out that the Tories have one rule for poor people, and another for rich people and corporations:
Looking forward to the companion macho video where HMRC officials kick in the doors of multinational corporations, trying to reclaim the £42b we're owed in tax. https://t.co/YeDKMHw1Oz
— THE SECRET TORY – CBE 🇬🇧 (@secrettory12) April 21, 2023
Other people said that it was akin to fascism:
Inciting fear among disabled and vulnerable people, making individual interest a punishable offence, so you can treat them like shit and demand they are grateful, is fascism. This can only come from belief in a natural order; that only some people are entitled to a dignified life https://t.co/1mzLkuv3B3
— kate flood (@KateFlood) April 21, 2023
Ultimately, though, we knew this approach from the DWP was coming. As the Canary previously wrote, former DWP boss Thérèse Coffey already gave the department more powers over benefit fraud – like DWP staff being able to arrest people and issue warrants.
The benefits system: working how it’s supposed to
As we’ve seen, this hardline approach is nothing new. This is the department which saw around 35,000 claimants die on its watch between 2011-2018. 90 people a month were dying after the DWP told them they were fit for work. The UN accused it and successive governments in 2016 of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights – and in 2017 called the situation in the UK a “human catastrophe“. Clearly, nothing has changed.
The DWP putting out a video, warning benefit claimants it’s coming for them, is not that shocking. Moreover, it is the DWP functioning as it should. The department is not, and never has been, there to “support” people. It is there to force people into work. If they can’t work, it’s there to provide them with just enough money to eek out a horrible, joyless existence. Or, in some cases, the DWP doesn’t even provide this – and it lets people die.
It is another arm of a system, and a state, where chronically ill, disabled and poor people are an expendable burden. The DWP’s job is to dispose of them – or keep them out of sight, and out of mind. Pursglove’s turn as hard-man action hero is just another example of that.
Featured image via the DWP – screengrabSupport us and go ad-free
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