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Systematic problems in the way the government administers and imposes benefit sanctions, including disproportionate burdens on the most vulnerable, are revealed in a report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The report found the way in which the DWP communicated with claimants was legalistic, unclear and confusing. The most vulnerable claimants were often left at a loss as to why benefits were stopped and frequently not informed by the DWP about hardship payments to which they were entitled, it said.

It also revealed serious flaws in how sanctions were imposed, with Work Programme providers required to send participants for sanctions when they knew they had done nothing wrong, leaving "claimants … sent from pillar to post".

The independent report was written for the DWP by Matthew Oakley, a respected welfare expert who is widely acknowledged as one of the leading thinkers on welfare on the centre right and as a result his criticisms, couched in careful language, are all the more damaging for a government that has consistently said the sanction regime is fair.

His main recommendations, which have been accepted by ministers, are:

  • All correspondence with claimants, including its style and content, should be reviewed

  • Claimants must be given personalised information about why they have been referred

  • Clear information must be given about the appeals process and access to hardship payments

  • A guide to benefit sanctions must be easily accessible in hard copy and online

  • Claimants who need particular help in understanding letters must be identified and spoken to

  • People should get information through their "preferred channel"

  • Procedures should be reviewed to ensure people have a clear understanding of their responsibilities

The DWP responded to the report by saying it would be updating the way it talked to benefit claimants, setting up a specialist team to look at all communications, including claimant letters, and working more closely with local authorities and advice centres to simplify the system.

Read more on this story in the Guardian and on BBC News

Read Matthew Oakley’s full report on the government website here

Comments  

#10 Blackcat 2014-08-06 18:24
I had a telephone call from DWP this afternoon. Following my Mandatory Reconsideration letter the sanctions have now been lifted.
My advice is to join a Union Community group, take advice from them.
Make your request for a mandatory reconsideration a part of a sworn statement taken out in front of a solicitor research the format,and admire the rubber stamp [statement will cost you a fiver] That sort of paperwork frightens the ferry muck out of pen pushing civil servants. The last thing they want is a crip [like me] becoming a 'Ministers Case' Civil Servants are terrified of their line managers in such a way which is beyond most peoples understanding.
Above all else be calm with them.
#9 Blackcat 2014-08-02 22:37
Back again. I have just received a letter from JC+, A form JSA/ESA11D 10/13. I have been refused hardship provision because I have failed to prove hardship. I have been disallowed Job Seekers Allowance 'for failing labour market conditions' WTF are 'Labour Market Conditions'

I am going to do a FOI request about this, but just for jolly lets say I was Illiterate and innumerate with profound learning difficulties, I don't understand 'Labour Market Conditions' [I don't think IDS understands them either,he shipped them in from the States]

All this for rescheduling a meeting with a Union rep present, there is a big rabbit hopping around here.
#8 Blackcat 2014-08-01 18:16
I do hope I am not being boring. At 09:00 exactly I walked into my local solicitors office and swore a Statement of Truth before him about how my union rep was sick on 23 06 2014 and we rearranged meeting or 27 06 2014. Went to JC and presented my WS1 04/14 'My Work Plan' and showed the clerk at reception the bit where I had been mandated to put in for a 'Mandatory Reconsideration ' I made her sign the exact part of the book, and also got a receipt for 10 bits of paper. Somebody rang me up this afternoon,becau se I had asked if I could turn down a job interview, I can only work 10 hrs the job needed 40. I am now 'totally Protected' She could not understand why I had been sanctioned. They have to do what they have to do, I have to do what I have to do, what ever happens happens. I am sure this has all been a waste of time.
#7 Blackcat 2014-07-31 17:50
It is now official, I had a telephone call to say that I have been turned down for a hardship payment,because I have a little money left. So I am going to lose my Housing benefit, and my Dole etc.for a month possibly my DLA All that because I did not attend a meeting on 23/06/14 with my Work Programme provider,had I gone without my Union Rep, I would have had them climbing all over me because I had informed potential employers about my disabilities and in their opinion was deliberately trying to put them off. I changed the date with the secretary to 27/06/14, and left a note with my DEA at JC+ but I still got sanctioned, and will now have to go through the reconsideration procedures. I am 61, I am Diabetic 2,I have been formally diagnosed with Aspergers I inject Insulin 4 times a day and take Metformin 2 a day, I have Crepitus, Strain Injury , and Plantar Fasciitis in feet through injury, and I have Cataract. So my training provider tries to pounce on me at the last meeting, they had 2 years to do that and so did JC+. I feel I am going to see somebody on the way down.
#6 Blackcat 2014-07-29 18:26
Somewhere in the middle of last month, I had a mandatory meeting with an advisor from my Work Programme provider, who said that she was handing me over to another advisor, just as I was leaving,the new advisor said she had problems with me telling employers about my disabilities. Alarmed at this I got my Union rep to attend the next meeting with me. At the next meeting, my advisor accused me of deliberately telling employers about my disabilities to put them off hiring me. My union rep sorted all that out after a meeting with the Manager,who allocated me a new advisor. My last meeting to terminate on Work Programme was on 23 June 2014, I was mandated to attend, I couldn't make the meeting because my union rep was ill, so I rang the Work Programme Provider, and a new meeting was scheduled for 27 June 2014.
I recently received an enquiry form from Wolverhampton asking me to explain why I did not attend the meeting on 23 June 2014, I gave evidence over the phone, and my Union rep sent 2 emails,and told me it was difficult to get them received. I went to sign on today to discover that I have been awarded a 4 week sanction for not attending on the 23 June 2014. I have been zealous in my job search and nobody at JC or the Work Programme provider could find anything wrong, so just at the last meeting, as a result of a diary change they stick me in the glasshouse.
I have Diabetes 2, Crepitus,Planta r Fasciitis,Strai n Injury all over, and Cataract in both eyes.
I have filled in the hardship form, and my union rep will send copies of all emails and covering letter to JC. I don't think they will make the sanction stick I am 61 !!
The Work Programme provider I have escaped from are notorious for getting sanctions on crips, am I glad I am off Work Programme. Where the hell are they coming from?
#5 Matata2011 2014-07-28 01:12
Pse , pse PODCAST Dunkun Barks LBC extremely fantastic debate on Disability Issues & the ignorance of the Definition of Disability, just finished, also read the Disability Hate Crime CPS Policy under Sec 146 CJA When it applies,Rise up to your Rights.:-)
#4 Paul Richards 2014-07-26 21:38
Hi all,
A question to all on here - do you really think that the DWP will willingly take all of this on board? - If they do, then I will willingly eat my hat, - but I honestly don't think that I will have to do that anytime soon!!
+2 #3 Paul Richards 2014-07-23 21:19
Hi all,
Yet another 'report', however well intentioned by it's author - it is full of good recommendations , but unless the DWP willingly takes these on board and quickly implements them, then it is again, an utter waste of time and probably the poor 'Taxpayer's money'.
After all, you can always take the horse to water, but it is not always possible to make him drink! The DWP would probably die of abject thirst first, before giving into it and their ultimate master, IDS.
Once again, it's a total disgrace what is being done to the sick and disabled people of this once, (but not now), great Country.
+1 #2 David 2014-07-23 20:25
All good practical suggestions in a caring society. Shouldn't need to be spelt out!
#1 angela 2014-07-23 19:58
I wish I had a £1 for all these reports I would,nt need to worry about future benefit cuts

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