Three ex-employees from the DWP have set up a website to help claimants with cases of unfair sanctioning over their benefits.
The website, jobseekersanctionadvice.com, has recently gone viral and a flood of more than 200 messages from distressed claimants has given the site’s founders more than they expected.[quote]”We didn’t promote the website, we just had a few inquiries and helped a few people. Then it got picked up and everything went bananas,”[/quote]
said one of the founders, who goes by the false name of ‘Jean’ to protect her identity.
The decision to build the site was made by three dissatisfied DWP employees after their resignation from the government body left them wanting to help claimants.
Jean explained:[quote]I decided one Sunday to resign and I never went back. I had loved the job until the last three years but then I could see the way things were going.
I got tired of fighting for the system.”[/quote]
Jean says that she slowly became disillusioned by the methods required to process claimants’ application for benefits, with each employee given targets on how many claims they should veto in a day.[quote]It’s a harsh environment…everything is designed to trip people up. They are asked to do things that are unsuitable.
Some offices are OK and others aren’t. It all depends what manager you have.”[/quote]
Jean took to helping people via online forums with her knowledge and expertise, but said that the more she became involved, “the more outraged I became”.
She managed to join forces with two like-minded ex-colleagues and set up the website, which has been bombarded with more than 200 messages in the last few days alone.
The messages have been from people who feel they have been unfairly penalised or sanctioned by the DWP, having benefits taken away from them; not getting what they feel they are owed or being punished for making a small mistake on their application form.
Last year, the DWP carried out an internal investigation into the practices of its Jobcentres, but said it found no secret targets imposed on employees; either nationally or locally.[quote]There are no secret targets for sanctions and we have a well-established system of hardship provision in place,”[/quote]
said a DWP spokesman to The Independent.[quote]Decisions on sanctions aren’t taken lightly, but its only right that people claiming benefits should do everything they can to find work if they are able.”[/quote]
However, a recent survey of Jobcentre staff by the Public and Commercial Sector union (PCS) showed that almost two thirds of them had experienced pressure to sanction claimants inappropriately.
General secretary of the PCS, Mark Serwotka, said that the sanctions ought be scrapped entirely as they serve no purpose “other than to demonise and punish people” for being out of work.