Evidence that Jobcentre advisers are targeting vulnerable customers for benefit sanctions was submitted to the Work and Pension Select Committee on 21st January. The submission, from a former DWP employee contains distressing testimony that people are being deliberately set up to fail with unrealistic job-seeking commitments and a culture which targets staff that are not thought to be referring enough people for sanctions. This testimony supports previous allegations that employees were threatened with performance improvement measures as a result of low sanction referrals.

The committee heard oral evidence from a number of third sector organisations, former DWP employees and representatives from the public sector.

Further evidence, reported in the Guardian, was submitted that questioned the value of sanctions as a way of getting people into work, which suggested that instead people are being driven off benefits by the harsh regime, not finding employment as the UK Government has claimed. Research by Dr Rachel Loopstra from Oxford University, and co-author Prof Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has revealed that only 20% of people leaving Jobseekers Allowance cited gaining employment as a reason. Another person giving oral evidence pointed out that participants on the Work Programme are more likely to get a sanction than a job and argued that people subject to a sanction are unlikely to be in a state to look for work.   The Guardian reported that one claimant was made to attend the Jobcentre every day for two months or be sanctioned and eventually broke down in tears in the office.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of  young people claiming Jobseekers Allowance is falling.  The Government claims that this is because more young people are in employment, however, those aged 18-24 are among the most likely to be subject to benefit sanctions.  There were almost 600,000 sanctions applied to this age group between the introduction of the new regime in October 2012 and June 2014.

The DWP denies the allegations, insisting that there are no targets and that the regime is helping people to find work, however, the Union which represents staff say that 61% of their members have said that they have been pressured into sanctioning people inappropriately to meet targets.

The Committe is yet to report on its findings

Source: The Guardian,