A ‘professional conman’ has just shown how inept the DWP really is

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A judge sentenced a “professional conman” to four years in prison on 27 April. John Sothern advertised fake jobs through the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch website and pocketed nearly £9,000 from charging people for DBS checks for the non-existent roles.

Sothern’s antics are just another story in a long line of DWP incompetence. Incompetence that has a shocking human cost.


This is Sothern:

Read on...

Sothern set up a fake company called Options4FamiliesThe Echo reported how he:

‘hoodwinked’ the Job Centre into believing Options4Families existed and advertised the posts online via the Job Centre’s website.

He even held some interviews at Birkenhead Job Centre. The judge described how:

Numerous witnesses were left out of work and many of them speak of the stress, anxiety and worry of how they would pay their bills.

One of those affected told the Manchester Evening News:

The job itself seemed too good to be true, but I was so desperate to find work I was ready to believe everything I was being told … I feel taken advantage of and totally devastated.

A worrying theme

Sothern has been jailed for fraud three times previously. Yet somehow the DWP allowed him to advertise his business as genuine.

The international recruitment company Monster was awarded a multi-million pound contract to run the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch website. It launched in 2012, but the site was plagued by accusations of fake job adverts and identity fraud. These failings have led the DWP to scrap the site. So it’s awarded a contract to another private company, Adzunato start a website called Jobmatch. The site is due to go live on 14 May.

As The Canary previously reported, the DWP spent £69.8m on “contingent labour” in 2017, including the use of specialist contractors. But this strategy of outsourcing key services has been far from successful.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee in February 2018 was especially damning of the practice. It concluded that the private firms contracted to assess people claiming disability benefits were failing to meet the government’s quality standards. The shadow work and pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, stated:

Under private contractors these processes are getting worse, not better, often damaging the health and wellbeing of the very people who need support.

One of many

Sothern’s fraudulent behaviour is one of many recent examples of DWP incompetency. The DWP has recently been accused of:

  • Trying to ‘coerce’ GPs into saying their patients are fit-for-work
  • Allowing work capability assessment centres that have no disabled access.
  • Setting an arbitrary target that 80% of original assessment decisions are upheld.

Human cost

Sothern, a “professional conman”, used the DWP’s services to target benefit claimants. This is just another example of how the department’s continued incompetency has a real human cost. And until the DWP curbs the practice of outsourcing key welfare services, it’s unlikely to improve anytime soon.

Get Involved!

– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia

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