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'Can this be England?'

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Kitkat
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'Can this be England?'

Post by Kitkat on Wed 11 Feb 2015, 13:02

"As a jobcentre adviser, I got ‘brownie points’ for cruelty"

Former jobcentre adviser Angela Neville has written a play to expose the harsh reality of the benefits sanctions regime
Angela Neville, 48, is describing events she witnessed as a special adviser in a jobcentre that prompted her to write a play about her experiences.

“We were given lists of customers to call immediately and get them on to the Work Programme,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I’m sorry this can’t happen, this man is in hospital.’ I was told [by my boss]: ‘No, you’ve got to phone him and you’ve got to put this to him and he may be sanctioned.’ I said I’m not doing it.”

Neville worked as an adviser in Braintree jobcentre, Essex, for four years and has written a play with two collaborators, her friends Angela Howard and Jackie Howard, both of whom have helped advocate for unemployed people who were threatened with benefit sanctions by jobcentre staff.

The title of the play, Can This be England? is an allusion to the disbelief that she and the others feel at how people on benefits are being treated, she says. And she unashamedly describes the play, in which she also acts, as a “dramatic consciousness-raising exercise”.
Full story in  The Guardian


Related articles:

Sobbing decision makers plead with claimants not to appeal
Sobbing decision makers are desperately trying to persuade claimants not to lodge appeals following an unsuccessful mandatory reconsideration, a senior welfare rights worker has revealed.
Writing on the welfare rights workers website Rightsnet, one senior welfare rights worker reveals that two clients have told him independently that the decision maker was ‘in tears’ or ‘sobbing’ because the claimant insisted that they wished to continue with their appeal when their mandatory reconsideration was unsuccessful.

The senior welfare rights worker goes on to explain that two decision makers have told claimants:

“But don’t you understand, the whole point of mandatory reconsiderations is to avoid appeals because they’re expensive, time-consuming and usually pro-claimant and wrong. Even government ministers know that.”

In the past, decision makers were indifferent as to whether their decisions were appealed or not. It simply made no difference to them. For decision makers to be reduced to tears when a claimant informs them that they intend to appeal suggests that massive pressure is now being placed on them to stop this happening..

Grieving relative confronts DWP minister Esther McVey after benefit sanctions inquiry
The sister of a diabetic who died after having his benefits cut wept after hearing the minister say there is state support for vulnerable people.
Esther McVey, the Employment Minister, was handed an image of David Clapson – the man found dead in his flat from diabetic ketoacidosis, two weeks after his benefits were suspended – following a select committee inquiry into benefits sanctions this afternoon.

In the emotional confrontation, Clapson’s younger sister, Gill Thomspon, presented the image to McVey and said: “A diabetic cannot wait two weeks.” A reference to the amount of time a Jobseeker's Allowance claimant, when sanctioned, has to wait to receive a hardship payment.

When Thompson discovered her brother’s body in July 2013, she found his electricity had been cut off, meaning the fridge where he stored his insulin was no longer working. Speaking to the Guardian in 2014, Thompson said: “I don’t think anyone should die like that in this country, alone, hungry and penniless . . . They must know that sanctioning people with diabetes is very dangerous. I am upset with the system; they are treating everyone as statistics and numbers.”

Work Programme staff were told to increase sanctions against clients, says former employee
A former employee of three separate Work Programme providers describes how staff members were compelled to increase sanctions in order to hit financial targets.
From 2011, at the dawn of the Work Programme, to 2014, I worked on three separate Work Programme provider contracts. At some point during each of these I, with my then colleagues, was approached by various levels of management and told in no uncertain terms to increase the number of sanctions raised on our clients.

Different justifications were given for this demand, but the implication was always the same – get the dead wood off our books so we can concentrate on the job-ready customers and hit our targets. Fortunately, I was clued-up enough to resist these attempts at coercion through a proper knowledge of the legal foundations underpinning the Work Programme, but many didn't, and, at threat of receiving a disciplinary and/or losing their jobs, complied.

Retired gardener takes his own life after change in benefits system, inquest hears
Malcolm Burge was left owing more than £800 to Newham council in London, after backlog in implementing government changes to welfare.
A retired gardener took his own life after a change in the benefits system that left him owing more than £800 to his local council in London, an inquest has heard.

Newham council admitted a failure to deal with Malcolm Burge’s benefit issue because of the backlog of cases after the change.
Full story in The Guardian

Charities gagged by Lobbying Act
The Coalition’s Lobbying act has largely succeeded in scaring charities in not speaking out on behalf of vulnerable people in the run up to the election, a report by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement has found.
The Lobbying act obliges charities and other non-governmental organisations to register if they are planning to spend more than £20,000 – including staff time – on campaigning activities during the run up to the election which could possibly influence the way people vote. There is then a strict limit on how much money may be spent.

The rules apply even if the campaigning is entirely non-party political. Where two or more organisations mount a joint campaign they must jointly remain within the cost limits, further limiting how much they can spend.

So, for example, campaigns relating to food banks, homelessness or benefits cuts would all be likely to fall within the terms of the Lobbying Act.

As a result of uncertainty about the law, fear of getting caught up in huge amounts of costly administration and concerns about being targeted by politicians many charities are remaining silent during the election period.

One charity which wished to remain anonymous told the commission:

“We are re-considering our usual manifesto activity leading up to the election.

“Although none of it is intended to be – or has ever been – party political, there is now a risk that certain politicians will try to make examples of anything we do and try to harm us financially or harm our reputation.

“For this reason we have to be careful about what we say. Even though the issues are very serious and we need to be hard-hitting in our communications to all politicians.

“Anything we say is now at risk of being wilfully misinterpreted.”


The Commission on Civil society has recommended that the Lobbying Act should be repealed.

You can download a copy of Impact of the Lobbying Act on civil society and democratic engagement here.

    Current date/time is Wed 22 Nov 2017, 18:19