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Esther McVey must be so proud. She has managed to make the unemployment benefit system do the exact opposite of its original purpose.

Today, the Coalition announced that in the last three months the UK has enjoyed “the largest quarterly rise in employment since records began”, with 30.15 million people in work.

This might be a good thing, depending on whether those jobs are well-enough paid to keep their holders from having to claim in-work benefits. The number of hours worked has also increased, but this may be due to the increase in employment itself, rather than an indication of fewer zero-hours or part-time jobs, which help employers more than workers.

The real cause for concern is the huge leap in the number of unemployed people who are not claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, to 1,015,000. That’s a massive 43.7 per cent of the total workless population.


Ms McVey was probably whooping with joy when she heard that her government’s policies have discouraged so many people from claiming. It means the government isn’t paying them any money in benefits – exactly as intended.

The figures speak for themselves. The new sanctions regime started in October 2012, when the percentage of people who weren’t claiming JSA stood at just 37 per cent (around 936,100 – there were 2.53 million unemployed at the time). In the 15 months since, a further 78,900 have been discouraged from claiming by the new system, according to the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI).

They haven’t got jobs.

In fact, they don’t have any visible means of support.

Why aren’t they claiming?

“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.”

“You have a job interview which overruns so you arrive at your job centre appointment nine minutes late. You get sanctioned for a month.”

“Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has “expired” so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.”

“You are on a workfare placement and your job centre appointment comes round. The job centre tells you to sign on then go to your placement – which you do. The placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for 3 months.”

These are all real experiences of real jobseekers – not scroungers, skivers or layabouts, as reported in a Vox Political article last month.

And they’re still going on. Benefit Tales published this account, from Facebook page The People vs the Government, DWP and Atos, today: “My lad been sanctioned yet again by job centre this time for not applying for enough jobs. He has applied for all those he can physically get to, we live in a rural area and buses are very limited. Yet they said he should have applied for the ones that are impossible for him to get to and from.”

So let’s all remember, next time we hear the government spouting “good news” about employment figures… It isn’t good news for everyone.

The benefit system has been perverted. It should be providing a safety net to keep people out of poverty while they find a new job.

Instead, the Coalition is bullying people into destitution and asking us to celebrate.

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