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DWP - Deliberate and Wanton Persecution. (This image borrowed from the Skwawkbox blog as the article is very strongly linked to the 'Claimant Commitment' piece there.

DWP – Deliberate and Wanton Persecution. (This image borrowed from the Skwawkbox blog as the article is very strongly linked to the ‘Claimant Commitment’ piece there).

Following on from Skwawkbox’s recent Claimant Commitment article, here’s a press release from the DWP, setting out how it proposes to persecute jobseekers, in particular. Let’s go through it together.

“Jobseekers will have to account more clearly for their efforts to find work and will be given a weekly timetable of tasks to complete, as part of the Claimant Commitment which rolls out nationwide from this autumn.”

If this is a more stringent obligation on jobseekers, where is the commitment for DWP officers and employees? What are their responsibilities? What sanctions do they face when they fail to meet those responsibilities? And what recompense will be offered to jobseekers when these failures happen (as they do on a daily basis at the moment)?

“From October, around 100 jobcentres a month will begin using the Claimant Commitment with new jobseekers, until it is in place across the country.

“This new form of Jobseeker’s Agreement will set out more fully a benefit recipient’s responsibilities in order to receive state support. Those who fail to comply with their responsibilities risk losing their benefits.”

Will DWP employees who fail to deal with claims in a proper, consistent and timely manner risk losing their jobs? I thought not.

A personal statement setting out what they will do to prepare for and find work will be based on the discussion between the jobseeker and their adviser. They will renew the commitment on a regular basis.”

What will advisers say when jobseekers demand a legally-binding commitment from them? Will they get it? I thought not.

“The new commitment is an important part of the cultural transformation that Universal Credit will bring and will place a strong focus on the responsibilities that claimants must fulfil.”

… While providing no security at all to the jobseeker that their claim will be treated in a responsible manner in return. This “cultural transformation” is from oppression to dictatorship, nothing less.

“Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said: “‘This is about redefining the relationship between benefit claimants and the state. The welfare state will support people when they fall on hard times, but in return they need to meet some contracted responsibilities agreed with a Jobcentre Plus adviser.'”

Ah, but will the state support people? Or will it delay, obstruct, and make unreasonable demands on jobseekers, in order to make a quick and dirty ‘Positive Benefit Outcome’ wherever possible?

“’For those people on Jobseeker’s Allowance, looking for work should be a full time job. It is fair and reasonable for the taxpayer to expect that claimants should do everything within their power to get into work.'”

It is also fair and reasonable to expect the DWP to do everything within its power to facilitate this. I heard the story yesterday of a young woman who was ordered to attend a Job Centre, in a different town from her home, two days after a surgical operation on her leg. She could not walk at the time, so she was expected to drag herself to the bus stop, endure a long journey on public transport – which is hardly conducive to post-operative comfort and might actually put back her recovery, and then drag herself – uphill – to the Job Centre itself. When she asked for the meeting to be rescheduled, her adviser refused. That’s how helpful the DWP can be!

“’It’s a fair deal people will have to sign up to in return for receiving support from the state.'” No it isn’t. “‘Our reforms are ushering in a new culture of conditionality and the Claimant Commitment lies at the heart of this.’” A new culture of dictatorship with no responsibility on the side of the oppressors.

“The Claimant Commitment is backed by a strict compliance regime to ensure jobseekers do all they can to have the best chance of finding paid work quickly. Those who fail to comply with their responsibilities risk losing benefit.”

Again: What responsibilities do the DWP have to honour, and what is the penalty for failure?

“Building on the current form of the Jobseeker’s Agreement, the Claimant Commitment sets out more details of the requirements of claimants and information about the consequences of failing to meet these.”

Yet again: What responsibilities do the DWP have to honour, and what is the penalty for failure?

There’s no mention of anything.

But let’s be fair. We’ll do a Freedom of Information request. How about:

“With regard to claims for all benefits available from the Department for Work and Pensions, what are the responsibilities of the DWP, its ministers, officers and employees, to the claimants?

“What sanctions to DWP ministers, officers and employees face if the organisation fails to fulfil those responsibilities?

“And what recompense is available to claimants who suffer loss of income as a result of such failure by the Department, its ministers, officers and employees?”

The claimant commitment, jobseekers agreement – or whatever they want to call it – is a contract. Any contract requires action by both parties and both parties should face penalties if they break their side of the bargain. But the DWP is unfairly using its position of power over claimants to inflict unwarranted cruelties upon them.

Let’s see what it takes to put a stop to it.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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