The DWP sanctions regime: under the limelight
The Welfare Conditionality project (2013-2018) was financed by the Economic and Social Research Council. Conditionality is the notion that people who get benefits should have to satisfy certain conditions, such as applying for jobs or lose their payments.
A sanction, in this context, means the removal of benefits, usually for a set time and proffers analysis on the effectiveness, consequences and principles of welfare conditionality, and the sanctions and compulsory support that underpin this strategy.
It studied 481 people who in some way were subjected to the DWP’s conditionality and sanctions regime. The researchers, from six universities, further worked with 52 policy stakeholders and 27 focus groups conducted with practitioners.
As a minimum, welfare conditionality in the social security system needs to be rebalanced. The current preoccupation with sanctions supported compliance demands to be essentially revised with more importance and resources centred on the terms of personalised employment support.
There is a call for a comprehensive evaluation of the benefit sanctions system to decrease the cruelty of sanctions, introduce fair and satisfactory warnings, better communication with recipients, and to ensure that sanctions are not used on defenceless people
The study broke its findings down into nine distinct sections. Some of them are listed here.
The report’s writers were possibly most brutal of the DWP’s approach to disabled people. This section looked at the impact of conditionality/sanctions on 157 people.
The report found that welfare conditionality did very little to move disabled people closer to the labour market. It stated the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was seen as uncaring and insensitive, pointing to inappropriate outcomes for disabled people.
The report noted sanctions usually triggered profoundly adverse outcomes, worsening physical and mental ill health and mandatory work training (workfare) was of poor quality and limited use.
But the report further found a disturbing trend. It remarked that disabled respondents were usually in support of welfare conditionality. One person noted:
If you’re asking for something you’ve got to do something back in return. That’s simply normal life and you don’t get owt for nowt.
It’s worrying that some disabled people are now viewing the welfare state as something that gives out only when people have paid in, which was never the plan for those incapable to work due to sickness or impairments.
Welfare conditionality is mostly inefficient in moving disabled people closer to, or into, paid employment; with benefit sanctions in particular expected to drive disabled people further away from the paid labour market and it’s time to basically revisit the role of compulsion in working-aged incapacity benefits.
Welfare conditionality inside the UK incapacity benefits system should stop.
The report’s conclusions about the impact of conditionality on homeless people and rough sleepers were diverse. While it noted that enforcement does sometimes alter a person’s questionable behaviour, usually it can remove the problem, cause those affected to disentangle from support, and/or increase their resolve to continue engaging in street culture.
Cutting of sanctions does little to improve homeless people’s motivation to re-enter the workforce. Support providers and homeless people alike usually agree current implementation uses are very questionable and hard to support ethically. Sanctions create substantial fiscal and emotional suffering and drive some extremely defenceless people out of the social security safety net altogether.
The report studied 141 people who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance at some time throughout the research period. Much like its conclusions about conditionality and disabled people, the report found that the threat of sanction wasn’t necessary to try and get people back into work.
It concluded that there was a shortage of proof for the effectiveness of welfare conditionality in promoting behaviour modification and improve issues in terms of returning to paid work. Conditionality, particularly through the focus put on sanctions, implanted terror into participants due to the difficult material hardship resulting from non-compliance.
Once again, the report found sanctions had little tangible influence on getting lone parents into work. It noted the system was heavily weighted towards sanctions, not help, and that the former created extreme psychological distress and extreme anxiety even if the sanction never occurred.
Of particular note were the report’s conclusions that sometimes lone parents were sanctioned for failures of comprehension rather than deliberate non-compliance. One person stated that the advisor said, ‘You agreed on this and you agreed that, but to be frank with you when your benefits change, you’re ignorant to what’s required of you.
That person kept saying, ‘So what is it you want me to do? Because I’m working my hardest to reach where I want to go’.
‘Well, you signed, you signed, you signed, and you really don’t know what you’re signing for.”
Sanction regimes are compromised efforts to stop child poverty. At best, current practice fails to help lone parents in the way intended; at worst, it increases the difficulty they already face. The moral legitimacy of the existing conformity is extremely ambiguous as a result.
The report was extremely critical of Universal Credit and the conditionality related to it. It talked to 144 people claiming the benefit.
It found that employment issues due to Universal Credit conditionality were usually neutral. The report stated tangible support to help obtain employment was largely absent from Universal Credit. It noted that when claimants engaged with DWP workers the principal focus was on ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Claimant Commitment and chastising recipients through the intimidation or use of benefit sanctions.
The report said that sanctions under Universal Credit worsened people’s situations, resulting in financial difficulty, debt, alcohol abuse, feelings of guilt, and declining mental health, and they created needless obstacles to moving into paid employment.
But in an opposing finding to that of disabled people, Universal Credit claimants generally thought the use of conditionality/sanctions for low-paid workers claiming the benefit was extremely unfair.
The report concluded that welfare conditionality was not practical nor humane. The current sanctions regime is unfit for purpose and the application and threat of sanctions impacted negatively on in-work and out-of-work… recipients and did more harm than good…”
Disabled People Against Cuts
Co-founder of campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Linda Burnip gave her response to the report. She told The Canary:
“While this is a very important piece of research, it is only confirming what anyone with a working brain has always known – punishing people by imposing starvation and degradation on them is not going to help anyone to work either short or long term.
Sanctions have always been a particularly cruel tool of a political party with no heart or soul and the proportion of disabled people sanctioned has risen steadily over the years while the barriers they face getting and keeping jobs have increased.”
Burnip is correct. While this research is appreciated, it’s only telling us what groups like Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) have been stating for years: that sanctions and welfare reforms are ideologically motivated, to marginalise people onto the fringes of society.
As researcher Kitty Jones penned in 2015:
“Conservative anti-welfare discourse excludes the structural context of unemployment and poverty from public conversation by transforming these social problems into individual… [ones] of ‘welfare dependency’ and ‘worklessness.’ The consequence is an escalating illogic of authoritarian policy measures which have at their core the intensification of punitive conditionality…
Such policies and interventions are then rationalised as innovative…. ultimately the presented political aim is to mend Britain’s supposedly ‘broken society’ and to restore a country that ‘lives within its means’… bringing about a neoliberal utopia built on ‘economic competitiveness’ in a ‘global race.’
The disadvantage has become an individualised, private matter… rather than… an inevitable feature of… competitive individualism. This allows the state to depoliticise it… whilst at the same time, justifying… changing citizens’ behaviours to fit with neoliberal outcomes.”
Sanctions are the thin end of a political wedge; one where anyone who isn’t viewed as economically productive to society is either required to work or should be marginalised for their omission to comply. While the report is true that the sanctions regime requires improving, the whole governmental and societal strategy to the welfare state is in demand of systemic improvement.
We do need to change the welfare policy, we need to make it more accessible and less costly to deliver, we need to clarify the whole scheme. Universal Credit should have been a great way to do this, but the implementation has been a total failure that has cost the taxpayer a fortune.
Universal Credit was always going to be a challenge because a huge balance of the country is, in some way or another, on some kind of state support and the people who rely on it the most are the ones living at the very edge of society. The severely handicapped, those coping with mental health problems that separate them from an ordinary life, and those who live in areas of long-term deprivation where there are no jobs, no transportation, and no true purpose.
Any modifications to the system should have been tackled like keyhole surgery, especially by a man who is a self-proclaimed Christian, and it should have been much more exposed to parliamentary scrutiny. It should have further been lead by a completely different person.
Thus, the plan was excellent. Enormous, but the implementation has been a complete hodge-podge and if Labour has any sense they’ll have an inquiry into what went so horribly awry when the DWP is subject to scrutiny again.
Like any large group of comparable methods which are comparable, but not identical, there are always extensive complexities in attempting to draw them into a one-size-fits-all system and you’ll have years of different record keeping methods, calculations, eligibility guidelines, process flows, et cetera to consider, and coordinating them all together is a bummer.
The notion of single policies seems excellent to CEOs and Senior Politicians because they don’t get the fundamental point: similar =/= identical. We have decades of cock-ups, half-done and cumbersome methods, and manual workarounds in both public and private enterprise to prove this.
The soundest way to dispense with it is to manage each central segment individually but to draw the summary data into a prime repository for MI and aggregation. That way you don’t have to change the world to do the same thing.
The design is excellent, but the performance is La La Land inadequate. Not the programmer’s mistake. The Civil Servants never designated the system even remotely correctly. Only when the programmers showed them what they had asked for, working, did they begin to understand what it was they had actually wished to be created but forgot to mention.
Nothing is wrong with the system. Nevertheless, their motive is to support and empower the promotion of individual greed and it’s not about making work pay but punishing the unemployed and raising boundaries for employers.
Plus they want the taxpayer to pay for their pants and breakfast. It’s all a bit much really.
There’s nothing wrong with the practicalities of executing it but the UK’s tax and benefits policy is a huge crumbling structure where any effort to bring about lasting change is so complicated, it’s disturbing and it’s usually easier to paper over the holes and then pass the parcel on to the next generation.
The consequences are of course horrible but so are the consequences of attempting reform. If it really was a building then the easiest thing to do would be to move out and crush it but that’s not plausible and the sheer expense and waste with a department in total turmoil that is making people suffer and not only the disabled, who many like to bash, but also the employed population as well.
This has all the signs of a government scheme with ministers failing to determine the range of the scheme before it starts, so that it effectively gets made up as it goes along, and changes on impulse, while the initial absence of direction quickly bogs down into a quagmire of probably really skilled people mooching around attempting too do their best with no clear sense of direction.
Bad programmers are simple to detect. Bad systems designers are slightly more difficult to detect, but bad managers can allow a project to go violently off-course, especially if they are working inside a culture where it is just not on to say it’s all gone horribly wrong.
The DWP attempted to cheat and get around the monolithic-government-project problem by using the Agile approach. Sadly, that approach requires stakeholders who know enough about the business to be able to offer something and are permitted to communicate to the people at the development coalface.
All reports show that the DWP have asked for this or that feature/function/et cetera to be included or allowed for a later time, leaving them striving to achieve what they were formerly tasked with building, a sound and organised system and having to run on the spot to include additional, earlier unconsidered add-ons while achieving the system, constantly resulting in setbacks or integration mistakes.
An IT specialist defined it as being similar to saying, “Build me a motor-operated go-kart and make it rear-wheel steering and make it 4 gears rather than 3 and combine power steering and combine interlocking brakes midway through the building stage instead of at the development and design stage.”
Every claimant now gets targeted and the DWP are clever and callous to the attitudes of others. I get that they have a job to do but I’m sure malice towards another person is not what’s in the job description.
These people that work for the DWP are thought to be experienced but instead, they end up being naive because they are easily taken in by the Gestapo police, the Government.
It’s a little like when Hitler came to power and he had his soldiers, his little servants working for him, many of those SS Officers ended up becoming more dangerous than Hitler himself and even though Hitler gave the orders, some officers believed they were better and took things into their own hands.
I’m not stating that everybody that works for the DWP enjoys giving out sanctions, of course not, but there are many that do and get vast entertainment out of it. This is not humane and those that are found to be doing this should be dismissed instantly, but of course, you’ll never actually find out who the Hitler’s are in the DWP’s string of command.
People are put on sanctions for ridiculous reasons and it’s disgraceful but the government enjoys seeing people poverty-stricken, plus it’s sickening that another human being can do that to another human being.
These sanctions need to be evaluated because if you’re a grown adult with a family of your own and you’re giving out sanctions, clearly it’s not because you want to, maybe it’s because you’re being made to.
The government are of course indifferent to anybody’s feelings, and what’s more, it’s calculated – what do they want, a gold star for being so pitiless when taking people’s money away from them, especially those who have kids.
By taking money from people that are suffering, they themselves simply become second-class. These people in government might have the richness of living in huge homes and they might have loads of money, but you know, they’re destitute of feeling!
They’re the rabble of society, they might be clothed in sheep’s clothing but underneath they’re not the crème de la crème, they’re like everybody else, human with blood coursing through their veins and they will die like anybody else, they can’t take it with them.
What they would like is to reduce population and if a couple of elderly people die because there is a shortage of funding, who gives a damn, they don’t. One less person to support or give money to. They might have worked hard all of their lives and paid into their pension, but screw it, if they’re dead, the government can collect on the state pension and keep it for themselves and pick off it like vultures.
When you’re motivated by an ideological idea all reasoning means nothing, despite the suffering and the problems and deformation it creates.
Of course, it’s more of a Messiah Complex than an ideological vision but if they think that they’re fated to become our saviour, if that’s the cause they might be resembling a diagnosable dysfunction, one with egotistic illusions, it’s also called narcissism.
The government are driven by power, prestige, supremacy, arrogance, self-absorption, self-admiration, exploitativeness and entitlement. They have this apparent self-focus in interpersonal trade-offs and difficulties in maintaining satisfying relationships.
And they have problems with understanding and compassion and hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults, why do you think they spend so much time in the House of Commons, it’s the place where narcissists flourish with their wrath, although they do have a vulnerability to shame but not to blame.
With their arrogant body language and praise towards people who appreciate and affirm them, so long as it’s in narcissistic accumulation and they detest those who do not like them and using other people without examining the price of doing so.
They profess to be more influential than they really are, boasting subtly but persistently, amplifying their accomplishments. Professing to be an authority on many things and they have this inability to see the world from the perspective of other people.
THIS MY FRIEND IS THE HITLER REGIME.
It’s a deliberate act to suppress people and it’s a crime against mankind and it’s intentional. It’s not a crime without a name, the name is called Agenda 21, another name they term it as is Sustainable Development.
Usually, genocide doesn’t necessarily suggest the direct killing of people, except if it’s performed by the mass slaughter of all people, but this is thought to rather signify an organised plan of different actions aiming at the removal of the fundamental pillars of life.
It’s the intention of destroying people, loss of personal security, freedom, health and dignity.
25 years ago when my boys were still quite small and green to the world around them, even though I brought them up with austere hardness because it was necessary that they had some breeding, to be respectful to people around them, to be able to prepare a meal for themselves and attire themselves well and be able to use an iron and not to make a joke out of another persons colour because our ancestors were immigrants who came to England with nothing and out of nothing made a life for themselves.
People who come from overseas come here because they require money and it’s more productive to work here. It’s not a modern thing, people have been relocating for employment for centuries, but then they work laboriously and for longer hours and for less money because anything they make here in England would be much more than they would get in their own homeland.
Yet we slate off people coming here from overseas because many of us don’t think that they should be here, however, some bring good things to this country. Corner shops, for example, are a great idea and if they disappeared we would be buggered – we rely on those corner shops because they start early and finish late and are nearly always accessible when we require them to be because they are occupied by immigrant families that have established themselves here to make a better life for themselves, and in doing so have made it an easier life for us Britains.
When the Second World War ended in 1945, it was immediately understood that the reconstruction of the British market demanded a huge introduction of immigrant labour. The Royal Commission on Population announced in 1949 that immigrants of good stock would be welcomed without reserve, and possible immigrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere soon became aware of the urgent demands of the labour market in the United Kingdom.
Postwar migration further attracted, for the first time, great amounts of workers and their families from outside Europe, largely from the Caribbean and from India and Pakistan, the two separate states created by partition after Britain surrendered its Indian empire in 1947.
Throughout the 1950s, in particular, Britain’s non-white immigrant population grew quickly in size.
From the Indian subcontinent, the preponderance of immigrants arrived in Britain throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Although frequently lumped collectively as one group by white Britons, these immigrants, in fact, came from a diversity of frameworks.
They included Hindus from the Gujarat quarter of western India, Sikhs from the eastern Punjab region, and Muslims both from the west part of Pakistan and from East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971.
This view has expressed itself in racist brutality often – the flashpoints in Britain throughout the preceding 50 years have mainly been restricted to impoverished neighbourhoods where local white and black communities fight for limited employment and housing.
But it has frequently been represented by more unexpected and treacherous forms of bias. Anti-immigrant feelings have also been inflamed, both directly and indirectly, by agitation for tighter immigration controls – usually proposed when there is not an acute labour shortage.
Since the 1960s Britain has developed a large body of race relations enactment. Multiple Race Relations Acts (1965, 1968, 1976 and 2000) have given a legal foundation for stamping out racial prejudice in employment and other spheres.
To bolster this legislation, groups such as the Commission for Racial Equality, formed as part of the 1976 Race Relations Act have sought to ensure that the principle of racial equality is put into use.
Jobcentre Plus is a government-funded employment agency, as well as a social security office. Employment agencies find people work, you don’t go into an employment agency and sit down and find your own job, they find one for you, yet people go to the Jobcentre and are told they have to find their own jobs, so essentially people who are on benefit are doing the Jobcentre’s job for them.
Why would somebody on benefit want to go into the Jobcentre Plus and have to find their own job, when the people that are working there are paid to do that for you, but then they tell you if you don’t look for yourself you’ll be sanctioned.
So, now there’s a punishment for not finding your own job because apparently, the hands of workers in the jobcentre have fallen off and now they’re vetoing money from disabled people when they go to these medical evaluations because apparently, their doctor has no idea what he/she is chatting about.
A disabled person might walk with a walking stick but even though their doctor has deemed that person unfit for employment or disabled enough not to work, but now the doctor is a liar because disabled people are being made to attend these ridiculous evaluations. Perhaps a pole should be put up the backside of someone from the government who believes that it’s okay for a disabled person to be subjected to these absurd assessments, then they will see how much it pains to walk with a pole up their backside.
It’s like being whipped thousands of times and being penalised for being disabled is acceptable and this should clearly be called into question.
Of course, there is always debate on things like this and some people will agree and some will disagree, but the deal here is that people whoever they are and from walk whatever of life they come from do get sick and the government are taking from sick and handicapped people.
The Atos disaster is a complete farce and the whole system is in chaos but the government are indifferent to the worries that disabled people have. It actually doesn’t matter how disabled you are, you could be paralysed, immobilised, incapacitated, a paraplegic, quadriplegic, or in a wheelchair, it appears to be that it’s that persons duty to suddenly grow a leg that they had to have removed or to suddenly replace the eyesight that they either never had at birth or lost because of an illness.
They appear to believe that a person can make themselves better because disabled people are the dregs of society and actually shouldn’t be here weakening the economy, which is complete nonsense. People just don’t fake their illnesses to get benefits, it’s not a financial scam to get money.
Their leg didn’t drop off because they thought one day, oh I fancy some extra cash, I guess I’ll just go and hack my leg off.
There will be people out there saying, “Well, they have to make sure they’re not screwing the system.” Really? So, a person who had to have his/her leg removed done this to get money from the state, no I don’t think so and the woman walking around with her blind stick just does because she fancies playing Space Invaders with it. Before long they’ll be putting blind Morris dancers on the football pitch saying, “Oh they can work.”
There’s a stench out there and it’s called government policies and those policies reek of shit and you can see that haze around nearly every MP in Parliament, and honestly, you don’t have to smoke to smoulder. They’re contaminated with contagions and they’re infecting every one of us.
The report noted sanctions usually triggered extremely adverse outcomes, worsening physical and mental ill health. The report stated mandatory work training, workfare was of poor quality and limited use.