Benefits Sanctions Must Be Fought Against

Job Centre Protest Selly Oak June 2012 11
This piece has been written by a local claimant who wishes to remain anonymous

Austerity continues to bite into the heart and soul of many citizens throughout Europe. In Britain the government and their subservient partners the Liberal Democrats along with a mainly supportive chorus from the opposition continue to call for more cuts and punitive measures in healthcare, education and welfare. It was a year ago that a man set himself on fire outside of Selly Oak jobcentre, and since then things have only got worse. A Birmingham Dad died from his heart condition 3 weeks after being declared fit for work by ATOS. Stephanie Bottrill killed herself, blaming the bedroom tax and someone jumped from a city centre car park just a few weeks ago, talking about government changes. There have been similar tragedies elsewhere in the country as a result of the attack on social security by all the major political parties.

Jobcentre Plus

The job centre and their master the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have no solutions to tackle long term unemployment and skills shortages within the section of the population who are more susceptible to long/short term unemployment. There are many who could benefit from doing a full time college course and signing on but are told they have to do one or the other. In practice this just leads to people signing on rather then attempt education without any source of money to live on. Instead of gaining skills which would in the case of a BTEC, NVQ etc increase their chances of getting a job they allow people to idle away in a dogmatic process of signing on fulfilling routine job searches.

The work programme has been a costly failure which has not solved the problem. It is run by Private Agencies funded by European Tax Payers through the European Social Fund the only training is of the basic kind CV surgery, basic Skills courses but little else. The jobcentre offers little in the way of training to anyone over the age of 25 all of it outsourced to private companies who run very basic courses.

Most Jobcentre advisers are the enemy of the people they claim to be helping. just like the whole set up of the Jobcentre is general. Those advisers tasked with handling peoples’ circumstances are often little more then white collar policemen who are there to just bully and sanction people for very little reason. They and the orders of the DWP are not interested helping people into vocational training. The number of sanctions being handed out has increased hugely, and they can mean having benefits stopped for as long as three years. A local job centre offered easter eggs to staff who met sanctions targets.

Groups like Boycott Workfare have done a significant job in the curtailing the use of unpaid Jobseeker labour by the likes of big business like Poundland and Superdrug and major charities like the British Heart Foundation.

Whatever the root cause the prevalent political culture, the policy of the DWP and the kind of men and women employed in key sections of the Jobcentre needs to combated just as fiercely. The big unions talk about helping but have not taken real action to get their members to fight from the inside, to refuse to hand out sanctions, send people on workfare or deal with any of the paperwork needed to put people through the ATOS disability test. Unless they do more than talk it is up to claimants to take action to fight this.

An anonymous Jobcentre worker has responded

The ConDem government have launched a war on the poor, on working people and on our unions.

As a jobcentre worker I see the devastating effects of this war every day as some of the poorest people in society struggle to survive in a system that is stacked against them. Alongside many of my colleagues I was horrified when the government increased the minimum sanction from 1 week to 4. We struggle to help people who find that their only recourse is the food bank, and a council hardship scheme designed to be impossible to use.

As a PCS union rep I reject the characterisation of DWP staff as ‘the enemy of the people’ and ‘white collar policemen’. Only recently the DWP were caught out imposing disciplinary measures on staff who were not dishing out sanctions, and had to deny that there were targets for staff. When this was announced there was a sigh of relief across every jobcentre in the country. That some managers offered Easter eggs as an incentive to impose sanctions shows both how brutal they are, and how they have to bully and bribe us to sanction.

The PCS has a proud record of opposing government attacks, not just on our own staff, but on the benefits system. We have recently had 2 strike days over attacks on our wages, pensions and conditions and at both of them we welcomed speakers from anti cuts and welfare justice campaigns.

At the recent PCS national conference motions which were sent from Birmingham were discussed and passed which condemned the government war on the poor and supported further cooperation between the PCS and organisations such as Boycott Workfare.

The government seeks to divide us with their ‘shirkers and strivers’ rhetoric in order to defeat us all. If they can set the employed against the unemployed they will get their way. We all have a responsibility to fight to overcome these divisions, in order to fight the real enemy – the Condems, the bankers and the tax evaders.

This is written anonymously as it would get me the sack for publicly opposing DWP policy!


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15 responses to “Benefits Sanctions Must Be Fought Against

  1. Pingback: Birmingham Trades Council » Benefits Sanctions Must Be Fought Against

  2. Blue Diamond

    I’m glad the JCP worker above has replied, as I agree that some of the accusations made by the claimant are unfair and unhelpful. I have a relative who has worked for JCP for many years who is finding the job increasingly difficult and stressful, as the government forces advisors to sanction claimants for the most spurious reasons. They are not ‘enemies of the people’, they are simply doing the job they are paid to do, the only alternative is to resign. Yes there are some whose attitude towards claimants is unpleasant and patronising or worse, but there are unpleasant people in every walk of life! And I speak as a former claimant myself! It’s the DWP and Ian Duncan Smith we should be protesting against, not the JCP workers.

    • Just doing their job is no defence at all… Their job is increasingly about stopping benefits, removing the money that people need for food, heating and clothing. This can be stopped for up to THREE YEARS.

      There are a very few decent advisors but they are outnumbered by the complete arseholes who completely agree with the DWP and IDS about claimants being lazy scroungers and fakers who will only learn through pain, who deserve to be punished, who if you don’t stop their benefits will never find work.

      Then in the middle are thre majority those who are just doing their job and couldn’t give a fuck about the lives they are ruining whenever they refer someone for a sanction. Just following the rules.

      I have never been so looked down upon or harrased as I was by JCP staff, not even police or private security services have disrespected me so much.

      Your relative should resign. It’s either that or be forced to screw people over every single day.
      If they don’t want to resign then they need to refuse to sanction people, refuse to send people on workfare, refuse to make people apply for job after job after job that they are never going to get. They need to get their colleagues and union to do and support this action.

      2.25 million people have had their money stopped by JCP advisors since 2010
      All of those people (and many others that they are close to) now see advisors as their enemy, because it’s the advisors who have taken away their food.

      • Blue Diamond

        For gods sake don’t be bloody naive. The JCP staff are NOT the enemy, the government are the enemy, it’s their appalling, vicious policies the staff are having to work with, do you not understand that? We all know that they are working to targets, if they don’t sanction enough people they’re in trouble, if they do sanction people the claimants suffer, its a no-win situation. I signed on for 2 years up until recently and the majority of staff were good people being ground down by a horrible system. My relative has a family and a mortgage to pay, he is not in a position to resign.

        • Naive? lol.
          Look on this website at article after article written by me about how IDS, the tories (and by proxy, Labour, since they aren’t going to reverse anything and were doing similar stuff whilst in power last), are setting out to destroy our social security system.

          Your relative is playing their part in this, by carrying out the orders of the people above them. They might not like it, but they are doing it. You seem to think that they are defending our social security system, and you call me naive.

          Is having a family and mortgage an excuse for doing anything, no matter how unspeakably evil, if it earns you money?
          I don’t think you’ll agree it is, but you definitely think it’s better that your relative sanctions people, causing immense hardship to lots of people, rather than resign because of the hardship they’ll bring into their lives
          But they will lose their job soon enough, expect the next government to privatise the JCPs and bring in private “welfare to work” firms, and then your relative will find themselves on the other side of the desk, but with a much harsher system in place that they helped to put into place.

          So fuck claimants over in the short run, fuck themselves over in the long. fuck all of us by helping to destroy unemployment benefits. But that’s fine because they are only doing their job.

        • Whiskymouth

          If your relative is a good man/women stuck in a empire of evil has he been attempting to find alternative employment surely with his record and skills he should be able to find work that is not damaging peoples live’s and ensuring a revival of the extremes between rich and poor so prevalent in the Victorian Age. His comrades are taken the food out of babies mouths, cutting the money of people who face starvation and other forms of personal disintegration as a result. Food banks have only started hitting the headlines because many people now are left to quee. up and rely on a little bit of charity to get by how does this make them more Job active(which is the belated justification behind sanctions ) You gotta tell me. A person like your relative could do good in organisations i like shelter housing charities or something like that. Has he even said to his /her manager look what your doing is wrong I don’t agree with this it is’ not going to solve unemployment or the problems which create long term welfare dependancy?these sanctions are imoral how do expect people to live?.
          Yes I agree a comparison between the Nazis and your Mob is extreme.
          At least your relative has the freedom to voice his opinion , leave find another job write to his MP, whistle blow, refuse to sanction for minor trivialities , or on dress down day wear a tshirt of protest. A Nazi solider often had little choice(although that does not excuse them) but compared to them your relative has a lot of options of resistance at his disposal.
          It still is unclear whether your relative is one of the advisers dealing with the long term unemployed or the ones that sit at the front of house
          and don’t have to do much bullying.
          You say you found the JCP staff helpful well its obviously a unique experience since all Job centres now are maned by an army of agency security guards the heavy mob are usually hidden away from the public and you have to go through an elaborate security process to met them.
          So i think that proves the that the JCP has become the enemy of the people.
          White Collar Gagsters ? The heavy mob = They are like Gangsters first of all they persuade you to attend crap training courses spend appointments trying to convince you are good for nothing use refined words like direct you to this and that but when you question it they don’t do anything at first just hand you a sanction letter sometime in the feature in a very casual way if you’ve watched the Godfather you will get the comparison. Instead of the family they have each other and will side with each other right or wrong against claimants they collect information on claments and use it a a weapon , they do not have to answer to anybody for their behaviour even the Labour Politicans(as was the case in certain points of New York political History) by pass them and their actions.
          They intimdate bully threten spy on those who cross them.
          And like the Mafia have the Cosa Nostra JCP staff have the PCS to sustain their intrests which includes sanctioning claiments with impunity.
          The Mafia kill but then where does the effects of having no food no money , no lifejacket to survive in modern Britain lead to ?
          Food banks are only a temporary solution(in fact no real soloution since it is playing into the hands who dont want a welfare state in any shape or form in the long run) the JCP staff who hand out sanctions to people already imprisoned in poverty are in effect handing out a death sentence it is only a matter of time before someone literally starves to death or secombes to some other sickness brought on by their actions.
          But you can carry on and say
          I wont ever take sides with anyone against my family the JCP/PCS

    • Whiskymouth

      “The PCS has a proud record of opposing government attacks, not just on our own staff, but on the benefits system. We have recently had 2 strike days over attacks on our wages, pensions and conditions and at both of them we welcomed speakers from anti cuts and welfare justice campaigns.”

      What their cheerleader fails to state is how going on strike over their own interests is of benefit to claimants a clear example of when their members have opposed many of the draconian punitive erosions of many clament entitltements and rights I certanly have no evidence of the PCS opposing erosion of claiments rights. Where was the PCS when the man set himself on fire outside Sellyoak Knobcentre ?where were they when a vicar was laughed at by the job centre staff for calling their actions evil and unchristian where were then when the easter eggs were being awarded into the well feed-compared to a clament who has just sanctioned (shame it wasn’t arsenic) for the sanction operations service SOS.
      How proactive have they been in condemning the rotten actions of their own bad apples in clear examples of unfair practice.
      Probably reading the Socilist Worker and quoting Marx in some chain pub.
      That argument both blue diamond and their Spokesman use they’re just doing their job I bet these two people have been on many anti austerity march’s and maybe on occasions when the Police have got more then hevy handed maybe they can sit their with a straight face and make that argument for the Police fellow public sector wokers like them are just doing their job. Many Nazis said the same when they were put on trial at Nurenberg An extreme example I submit but then with the increasing brutitilty with which the DWP operatetes on the psyche of the most vungrable – where are they going to draw the line no one knows most just follow orders. The article does not say every one who works at the Jobcentre is an Arsehole(although a fair number are) the point is that the advisers who are sympathetic activly resistant are usually not the ones tasked with doing the aggressive stuff.

      “At the recent PCS national conference motions which were sent from Birmingham were discussed and passed which condemned the government war on the poor and supported further cooperation between the PCS and organisations such as Boycott Workfare.”
      Anyone can condem the condems over a coffee etc but when day to day you are doing their dirty work form them it is about as wanker worthy as having a fair trade cofffee then going to a message parlour and spunking over some third world women.

      Its clear where the PCS stands they should just stay on their side of the fence their excuses I would imagine are not welcome on here I’m sure they have on private forum (union mettings etc) where advisers can bitch about nasty claiments and how ungratfulll(quesioning they are) they are etc. The JCP staff have Labour a big union and no doubt a lot of the eveyday saps who believe that all claiments are no better then Crims on their more audible side.
      Now why should they come on here and try and curtail free speach about what is happening in Jobcentres nationally the White collar Gagsters who are theyre members. At least a Police station has a duty solictitor on hand to help people who are being questioned.
      The PCS response is just like the chairman of a big bank would respond
      even when presented with clear bad practice of his staff maybe they have a little more in common with the big cope rations they say they oppose like them they close ranks make excuses and avid the ugly truth.

      • Blue Diamond

        Nobody’s trying to curtail free speech, this is an open forum as far as I’m aware & to say PCS members can’t comment on here is ridiculous. And as for invoking the Nazis… jeez. And white collar gangsters, what the fuck does that even mean???

        Why can’t the left stand together instead of this petty bickering which I’m seeing more & more of lately? We are all fighting against the same things, but so much energy is wasted in name-calling and other playground-level crap. GROW UP!!!

        • John Smith

          You’re the one wasting energy in name calling. You need to grow up

          PS Jobcentre staff have been the enemy long before the present government.

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  5. lyon

    just stick david cameron on 2 quid a day a free survival bag and a nice bridge to doss under ..problem solved

  6. Rosie

    I sent this recommendation to all the JCP regional managers and my local MP Steve Reed – his assis replied & aske 4my details, not heard back since. jobcentre Manager replied 2say my recommendations were not needed. I would like to email you my proposal I sent. Please send me an address

  7. john

    the jobseekers agreement is a cruel and degrading item. it is designed to eventually give them a reason to stop your payments. we all know that the jobcentres have targets its not a secret anymore no matter how much political spin you try to use. i had my claim closed as i was on postal signing and although i had sent my form the dwp internal system delayed it and 5 days later i found my claim closed for late signing. the rules are written that this is perfectly within their rights. i only found out as i rang for another reason to be told they cant answer any questions as my claim was closed. i had to reclaim and when i complained at my first signing the guy after looking round to see if his supervisor had gone told me id been hit by one of the target drives and although i had imeadiatly signed back on that was a different set of figures and the amount of people they had got off claiming looked good for the management that month. now i have been hit again with a possible sanction because i was one job under the amount i should have applied for. i tried explaining that as i live in a rural area theres a finite number of jobs i can apply for and the guy just told me i should have applied for anything as they were having a push on getting the figures up again and any slight fault had to be acted on. this is a government department and they have written the rules to suit only themselves. its no longer looked on as a helpful department but one you go to war with trying to abide by draconian rules. one rule says you must tell us immediately if you are going away from home even if its for a day. i asked what was ment by away from home and they said well its what it says. if you go to see say a parent in a different city then you should inform them as it could be used to sanction you. you feel like a prisoner having to ask permission. one other point i have is the rules are written to make you take any job they say you must but yet article 23 of the human rights act seems to contradict this.
    Article 23.

    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
    How do the current dwp rules allow my free choice of work THEY DONT if you decline a job because its not something you wish to do then you get sanctioned so therefore no freedom of choice. the state demands you take any job they say you can do.
    oh one more thing i will add about sanctions– woe betide you if you say the requirements they initially give you are not achievable all the time they just increase them to make you try harder and thats the decision of the guy infront of you and if hes had a bad day then your screwed. its like corporal punishment if you scream they hit you harder until you stop

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