- Politics and Social Issues
Dispatches - Tricks Of The Dole Cheats: Fact Or Fiction?
With the plans for welfare reform in the UK being introduced, new legislation is already wreaking havoc on the vulnerable. More and more people in the UK are becoming homeless as a result of new legislation recently introduced and their chances of finding accommodation have also been stunted by these changes. As many as 32 people die each week in the UK after wrongly being kicked off medical welfare benefits such as ESA (Employment & Support Allowance).
There is even one case of a blind man who was kicked off medical welfare benefits. He took DWP to court and eventually won his case. Similar cases like this also keep cropping up. In addition, a few Jobcentre whistleblowers have come forward to reveal that certain members of staff are expected to sanction a target amount of claims or risk losing their jobs. One member of Jobcentre staff who I spoke to directly also made a similar claim. One should remember that benefits claimants who are not (illegally) working have no other income to pay their rent and therefore they are relying on Housing Benefit until they do eventually find employment (which is no easy task at the moment). If their claim for JSA is sanctioned then their Housing Benefit is automatically suspended and they may face eviction followed by homelessness as a result. Effectively, they will have been left homeless with no income as a result of their claim being sanctioned.
I am aware of one person who was kicked off ESA after failing a medical examination by ATOS Healthcare and was made homeless at the same time, yet she was told that she couldn't claim JSA because her claim for ESA was still showing up on the system. She was left homeless with no income and at a time in her life when she was suicidal and suffering with depression and anxiety which she had been prescribed medication for. Because of her situation she could not contact her doctor and had no choice but to just suddenly stop taking her prescribed medication, which can potentially cause adverse side effects and possibly even long-term damage. She had been on the course of medication for months and was on a large dose. She received a copy of the medical report from ATOS Healthcare and she claims that is 100% disinformation and that her health issues were not addressed in any way whatsoever.
Channel 4 television documentary Dispatches aims to expose 'dole cheats' who use simple tricks to get away with not even bothering to look for work (bear with me on this!). Initially the impression you get is that they are trying to portray Jobseeker's, or those otherwise claiming JSA (Jobseeker's Allowance), as benefit thieves. Whilst this is probably true for a small percentage of claimants, it certainly doesn't apply to the majority of them and at first you get the impression that they are all being tarred with the same brush; this portrays the genuine jobseekers (and believe me there are plenty of them!) in a negative light... but once you get right into the heart of what's really going you begin to see a different picture.
The Dispatches documentary shows a claimant writing a shopping list on his jobseeking record (which a claimant is required to keep) instead of what he has done to find a job. The Jobcentre staff appear not to notice and pay him his benefits anyway...
In my experience with Jobcentre Plus staff they have always looked at the jobseeking record/diary and commented on at least one or two jobs to ask me how I got on.
... and so the underlying factor begins to become evident. Is the claimant guilty of cheating? No. Is it his fault they have paid him his benefits even though he hasn't bothered to look for work? No, it's not. It is the Jobcentre advisor's fault for not ensuring that he has tried to find a job. He is not entitled to his benefits because he has not stuck to his jobseeking agreement but the advisor has paid him the benefits anyway - she is the one who has cheated. In addition she is not carrying out the job that she is paid to do because she has not helped the claimant even find a job in any way which, ultimately, is what Jobcentre staff are supposed to be doing.
Another person submitted an application letter and a CV (Curriculum Vitae) which both clearly stated that he did not want to work and would rather stay on benefits. Once again, Jobcentre staff failed to notice and paid him his benefits anyway. It seems that good staff in Shropshire and Dalston must be hard to come by, even by the Jobcentre. Furthermore it appears that many of the actual benefits claimants could probably do a better job than their advisors do at the Jobcentre. In actual fact the documentary also shows how the Jobcentre had employment vacancies available which had not even been advertised on their own system (Direct Gov).
If it's true that Jobcentre staff have targets to reach in terms of sanctioning claims it also seems that Jobcentre staff may actually be using these simple tactics to ensure that they actually reach those targets. A member of staff could intentionally 'allow' a shopping list (instead of a jobseeking diary) to slip through the net knowing that it may not have an immediate effect, but would be picked up on eventually causing that person's claim to become sanctioned in the future and therefore helping her reach her target.
However, not all Jobcentres are like this and some of them use very different tactics. In wales it's a very different story.
Even more shockingly is the fact that just two days after the Dispatches documentary aired on national television, MSN released two reports - one claiming that the total amount of JSA claimants was at it's lowest level so far this year. Simultaneous to this they published another news article showing how suicide rates were up and were a result of the recession and because of unemployment! Isn't it strange how whenever unemployment figures are released they also seem to show the opposite of all the other information out there. It's no secret that Jobcentres are guilty of 'fixing' unemployment figures, this has been going on for a long time and you would have to be both blind and stupid not to realized this when even corporations like MSN are putting the conflicting information right in front of you proving that the figures are nothing more than outright lies.