The DWP has admitted to creating fake claimants complete with bogus quotes praising the sanctions regime in a recent leaflet on the subject. The leaflet had to be withdrawn after the DWP’s dishonesty was exposed by the Welfare Weekly website.{jcomments on}

In the document, the DWP included pictures of two claimants, Sarah and Zac, both of whom were supposedly employment and support (ESA) claimants.

Zac explained how, because he had told his work coach in advance that he couldn’t attend a meeting because of a hospital appointment, his benefits weren’t affected. This is a very different experience than that of tens of thousands of claimants who have had their benefits sanctioned even though they had a genuine reason for missing an appointment.

It was Sarah’s story that drew the most derision from claimants who spotted the leaflet before it was withdrawn, however.

Sarah didn’t complete the CV she had agreed in her action plan. The imaginary Sarah tells readers:

“I didn’t think a CV would help me but my work coach told me that all employers need one. I didn’t have a good reason for not doing it and I was told I’d lose some of my payment.”

In fact Sarah loses two weeks’ payments, a disaster for most claimants. She explains:

“My benefit is back to normal now, and I’m really pleased with how my CV looks. It’s going to help me when I’m ready to go back to work,”

Ignoring for a moment the fact that most employers have not the tiniest interest in seeing a CV, Sarah’s response to losing two weeks benefits is startlingly relaxed. For most claimants it would take months, at the very least, to get on top of the debt and misery that a two week sanction would cause. The idea that any real claimant would be focusing on how good their pointless CV looked rather than how desperate their circumstances are is beyond belief.

Suspicions about the alleged claimants were raised online by people who had spotted the same claimants’ images, but with different names, used in DWP leaflets about other benefits.

At this point Welfare Weekly made a Freedom of Information request, asking if the claimants were genuine.

As a result, the DWP hastily withdrew the leaflet and responded that:

“The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants.

“The stories are for illustrative purposes only.

“We want to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help us achieve this.

“We have temporarily changed the pictures to silhouettes and added a note to make it more clear that these are illustrative examples only.”

The leaflet has now been reissued with silhouettes in place of the fake photos. A note also now explains that the people in the leaflet aren’t real.

The truth is that the DWP has sanctioned more than 1.75 million JSA claimants alone in the last three years. Yet, they were unable to find a single genuine claimant willing to speak up in support of their vicious and dishonest sanctions regime.

Happily, on this occasion, the DWP’s dishonesty has been exposed, with the story trending on Twitter and being covered by the BBC, the Guardian and other mainstream publications.


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