Socialist Worker

Government set targets to drive us off benefits

by Matthew Cookson
Published Tue 12 Apr 2011
Issue No. 2247

Job centre workers around the country have been instructed to drive people off benefits, the government has been forced to admit.

Whistleblowers have revealed that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff have been tricking vulnerable claimants into losing their benefits as part of the government’s callous cost-cutting.

One said that bosses had set workers at his job centre targets of three people a week that should be referred for sanctions. This could mean they lose their benefits for six months.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith dismissed this story as “claptrap”.

But email evidence, seen by Socialist Worker, emerged last week confirming that targets are being imposed on staff.

Below the underlined section heading “Current Bench marks and Targets for Full Time adviser each month staring 27/9/10” a manager writes: “SBR Stricter Benefit Regime: 5 SBR referrals a month”. A source said that the targets are even higher now.

The DWP released a statement on Friday of last week confirming that the practice had been taking place in some offices because of a misunderstanding between the department and managers.

It said this practice no longer continues.

But a DWP worker rejected this claim, saying, “In fact, all they’re getting rid of is a league table of offices.

“A new national scorecard includes targets for every office, and there are individual targets, which are tougher than previously.

“If you don’t refer enough people you could be liable to disciplinary procedures.”

Whistleblowers have told the Guardian newspaper of how they have felt forced to target claimants with poor English skills or people with learning disabilities.

They are easier to “trick” into a mistake in their claims.

Targeting

This vicious targeting of the unemployed is leading to a big rise in the number of people being driven off benefits.

A report by Citizens Advice in Wigan has looked at the “growing problem in the way the jobcentre are dealing with the issue of sanctions”.

It found that 41 people came to Citizens Advice with the problem between September last year and January. This is a rise from eight in the same period the previous year.

Mark Serwotka is the general secretary of the PCS union, which represents many job centre workers.

He said, “The secretary of state should issue a full and public apology for what was a piece of outrageous spin when he must have known what was happening.

“We fundamentally oppose the use of targets for welfare sanctions and we call on the DWP to put an immediate stop to this abuse of the system.”

The revelations come as a day of action against benefits cuts is set to take place on Thursday of this week, with activists protesting around the country.


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Tue 12 Apr 2011, 18:33 BST
Issue No. 2247
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