Following on from tonight's big ideas meeting I would sincerely love to see sanctions dropped. Tonight's discussion prompted me to think about past experiences as a job seeker.
Whatever happened to lead by example? Job centre staff take annual leave sick days & public holidays off do they not? So when I dared question being expected to job search for 37 hours per week, week in week out as an unemployed person, I was categorically put in my place.
Obviously I was told it was a condition as a claimant, in exchange for benefit payments. I couldn't risk loosing out financially so I became very skilful at applying for any old job purely for the purpose of ticking boxes in my journal. These were jobs I had no interest in or intention of following through with, in fact sometimes I would lie about jobs I'd have interviews for but withdrawn my application for. But least I had done what I was expected to do. How does wasting an employer's time foster better relationships between the claimant the job centre & employers.
At the time, I was only obliged to take a part time job due to childcare commitments. Now I wonder whether or not I could have been expected to job hunt for those hours each week. Surely applying online for jobs on a bank holiday wasn't going to get a personal response. The quality of what I was applying for didn't matter, because it was quantity that the DWP were more interested in. Since when has that model been best practice in any industry?
It's a shame claimants don't get treated more like employees in waiting & able to sign up for job seekers perks, a uniform allowance, trips out, Christmas parties & other festivities etc holiday entitlement, flexible working etc just as a "real" employee would do. I imagine that would go down like a lead balloon with the government.
I've done alright on UC as a lone parent who is fortunate enough to be in full-time work. My UC works for me because a) I am left alone by the work coaches and b) the taper rate moving down in Dec 2021 was a massive help.
That is when UC works - when you are in full-time work.
I think the improvements needed to the social security system as a whole come down to:
1. dropping sanctions. There is no real evidence that these work and they just hurt people affected by them;
2. Incentivise people back in to work by increasing rates, and increasing rates when in work - UC benefit rates are still woefully short compared to 10+ years ago. The LHA has not moved in the last 3yrs. If people felt their ability to pay their rent was more secure even when returning to work, they would.
3. Change the perception of the social security system. Make the benefit system more like how the NHS is seen - as a help, not a stick to beat people with. Practical effects would be open up the DWP to doing proper benefit checks so people could feel they trust what the DWP say about returning to work. Simplify the system so people can easily see the benefits of working. Stop hassling people who are ill or carers or old or young. Teach more about the benefits system at school. I think this would take a longer time to shift people's opinions but I have known the benefit system since the late 90s and never once are the good things it does shouted out loud.
I came across this MP questioning the Secretary of state about the re-introduction of strict sanction.
In my humble opinion, sanctions are NOT "helping" people into work... People are ESCAPING into employment to AVOID SANCTIONS then stuck in another unsustainable situation until something changes. That's definitely NOT "helpful" it's simply diluting the situation.
I consider myself very lucky not to have the need for regular contact with the DWP or job centre staff.
I appreciate the fact that these civil servants are mostly human beings themselves, trying to do their jobs, nevertheless, I also often question how some of then do actually even sleep at night, given what they subject people to when they enforce regulations on their fellow beings. That same subjugation can sometimes even apply to their fellow colleagues. It's a well known fact the DWP recruit disabled people for amongst other roles, public facing ones, some of whom have to meet certain targets themselves and failure to do so, carries consequences, so there are times when DWP staff are subjected to sanctions alongside other claimants.
One reason I am opposed to contact with the DWP is for one thing, they use tactics to intimidate folk for a start. On journal entries they use first names to address you with, as if that implies they are your friend or breaks down barriers. Their letters and forms are written in such a way to imply threat and gain compliance. I dread those brown envelopes dropping through the letter box. Further more they regularly, break their own laws and regulations. For instance didn't apply correct legislation when calculating benefits along with many more legal errors they made during my assessment phase. They state on the Work Capability forms and PIP forms "You do not need to send us XYZ", when legally you are permitted to send in whatever the heck you like in support of your claim. Everything "has" to be considered as evidence. They just don't read everything properly. No wonder they have a reputation for being lazy.
In addition, I'm fully aware they receive tons of post each day, however, they very often seem to loose documentation posted to them, which is why it is always imperative to send anything to them via track and trace delivery options. Again, this creates an immense lack of trust and dishonesty with them.
At health assessments, which are referred to as "Medical assessments", (even through there is nothing much medical about them as they are more legal tests than anything health related) they have a huge tendency to spin what people tell them about themselves, or fabricate things altogether, I know this is standard practice, they are trained to do this and incentivised to reuse benefits to claimants under the guise of saving government funding. It's common knowledge that more costs are fraudulently spent and lost elsewhere in government corridors!!
Overall, I feel the vast majority of DWP are either poorly trained in their jobs, don't care about the folk they are there to help, for instance, telephone helplines often take far too long to be answered or staff carry an air of authority over claimants. I even find it remarkable people are not being signposted towards benefits they are more than eligible to claim for then going without, so no I wouldn't welcome regular contact with the DWP due to a distinct lack of trust between them and myself.
I found I knew more then they did and I was constantly moved through the work coaches.
They said they had to find me work so I told them "you are right you find me one where I can have 6 weeks off and all other school holidays off too, one that's within school times".
They then would just move me onto someone else.
They tried to get me to sign up to fancy named courses that I asked what they were about and my work coach had no idea about a few, one sounded great and a high level credited course. Again my work coach tried to make it sound brilliant and important. I decrypted it and said "it's just training on how to talk and greet customers isn't it".
She said "yes"
"I have years of retail experience and can clearly talk articulately"
They will pay for one to go in a basic level entry course which is pointless when you have a degree and yet they will not pay for the next level" I asked, "how does this help me?" they had no idea.
They couldn't help me find work yet they had to, as they kept telling me. They had to try and make me do courses, yet they where pointless for me.
I said "I am trapped on benefts, out of work and I have skills and qualifications, you can not find me work or answer my questions, or advise on how to help myself".
They said "we have not trapped on benefits, it our job to get you back into work"
I said "help then"
They went quiet for a very long time and the manager rang me weeks later and told me to go into carers allowance NOW, mark as a carer on your profile straight away" she rang me a hour later in her own time to make sure I did.
I'm not sure why but maybe I was going to be sanctioned or pulled off benefits.
I have a autistic child who is in FT school.
I have had mixed experiences with DWP.
My worst experience was signing on and my daughter who was 6 at the time was very poorly. I had nobody to help with childcare as she was absent from school.
I called the job centre to explain the situation but they insisted if I did not sign on and comply with them, I would have my benefit sanctioned. It was hard work, carrying a 6 year old from the bus stop to the job centre. My daughter was running a temperature and drowsy. She cried throughout the time of interview / signing on. She sat on my knee and I felt stressed.
The woman working for the job centre had no compassion. It was not a place to take a child. There were aggressive customers and the security guard asked personal questions of my situation and why I hadn't got a sitter for my daughter. It's surreal as if having a child didn't matter and it was expected that I had parents to help out, and I had to explain they both passed away. I felt as if I was judged and I was embarrassed to be signing on.
I have had to update universal credit as my partner lost his job. It was easily done online but I still then had to phone. I thought I’d be waiting ages but actually wasn’t that long and sorted the situation out quickly.
I also then had to go to the job centre in which I didn’t have to wait long and the person who saw me was kind and compassionate to what I had to say.
I have personally had no problems in regards to the job centre or DWP.
I am currently helping my mum who has help with several people and one thing we have found is when they are to call you, somtimes they ring for 2 rings then hang up. In which has resulted in a sanction as they then say you missed the appointment but when proved they rang for literally 2/3 seconds they changed the sanction.
It’s absolutely awful. They speak down to you like they are better than you, treat you like nothing and expect you to be able to get a job really easy despite having no childcare, lack of jobs and having disabilities. Sometimes they remind you that people in wheelchairs can get a job so so can you.. you do everything they ask and it’s not enough! They’re not compassionate if you miss an appointment due to kids being unwell or your disability, they pressure you by saying they will stop your money. They send you last minute appointments at stupid hours like 8am, they cancel and don’t tell you. You get attitude and made to feel guilty that you can’t work full time or that you need a crisis grant. I’d sooner starve than apply for another one.
When I first claimed universal credit I was sent on a course specific for call centre work. It was compulsory and I was told I was guaranteed an interview at the end. I fully engaged with the week long program but the interview turned out to be with someone on work experience and the jobs didn’t actually exist.
I felt like a pawn being manipulated in game. The threat of being sanctioned means adhering to the rules come what may. Fortunately I found work via an agency and then subsequent employment on a part-time basis a month after this awful experience. As I work in a school - and only get paid for 39 weeks per year, I’m terrified for when the new universal credit minimum hours come into force as I will drop below the threshold and will therefore be expected to seek additional work.
For context - I’m a single (solo) mum without a support network. I'm educated to graduate level and have previously earned 6 figures. I had a period of poor mental health which meant I was unable to work for several years. I’m currently retraining for a new career in a field I’m passionate about but unfortunately I’m not eligible for any financial help as a student. The struggle to juggle motherhood of a small child, studying and work is immense, particularly in light of the current financial climate. What keeps me going is hope for the future and that once I am qualified, my family will hopefully have a better life. I feel privileged that my situation is, fingers crossed, temporary, and for many who are also struggling - they can’t see light at the end of their tunnel.
Recently a friend of mine was sanctioned by her Jobcentre for not being able to attend an appointment, due to extenuating circumstances on the day.
Most of her close friends and family either live abroad, or in various other parts of the country, so she has no-one nearby to rely on for help and support in time of crisis.
Whilst she was telling me about her current situation, I was so saddened to learn that the Government are sanctioning people during this cost of living crisis, and think that it should most definitely be stopped and not be allowed to happen to our most vulnerable members of society, especially in times such as these.
Came across this screenshot on social media, from written questions submitted to the Department of Work and Pensions about social security benefit disqualifications.
According to Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham.
"There are no plans to automate decision making or the application of the sanctions regime which will continue to to be undertaken by Work Coaches and Decision Makers".
I should think so too. Appalling that they continue to sanction people full stop. UC pays the minimum amount possible already. Outrageous they want to try to reduce it further as a form of punishment.
We are unaffected by the Work Capability Assessment. However I do worry about those in receipt of ESA and what that entails for them when the government removes it altogether.
I've have lots of questions about the budget. Again it does seem they have not taken a few things into consideration. The lives of those on benefits will become more difficult. For instance, I live in perpetual fear of sanctioning and my work place have given me fewer hours next month. I work in care, and have a zero hours contract. As I am subject to conditionality, fewer hours will mean I will be visiting the job centre and searching for more work. The government have finally promised to pay for childcare upfront. Apparently this will effect only 700,000 families. Who this actually applies to is unclear. It would have been of great help when I started working.