Research shows only a fifth of 2 million people find employment after losing jobseeker’s allowance

430835_148211001996623_1337599952_n (1)Further to an article I wrote last November – Government under fire for massaging unemployment figures via benefit sanctions from Commons Select Commitee – it’s emerged that the Coalition’s claims regarding an increase in employment are again under scrutiny after research shows only a fifth of 2 million people find employment after losing jobseeker’s allowance.

Fresh research, presented at the Commons Select Committee inquiry into welfare sanctions on Wednesday, suggests that hundreds of thousands are leaving jobseeker’s allowance because of benefit sanctions without finding employment, though the report’s authors cannot provide an exact figure.

Written by academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the report raises questions about why so many of those losing their benefit then disappear from the welfare system – possibly to rely on food banks.

The Guardian reports that Professor David Stuckler, of Oxford University, said that benefit sanctions “do not appear to help people return to work. There is a real concern that sanctioned persons are disappearing from view. What we need next is a full cost-benefit analysis that looks not just narrowly at employment but possibly at hidden social costs of sanctions.

“If, as we’re finding, people are out of work but without support – disappeared from view – there’s a real danger that other services will absorb the costs, like the NHS, possibly jails and food support systems, to name a few. Sanctions could be costing taxpayers more.”

However, the Department for Work and Pensions, which is expected to announce a further rise in UK employment on Wednesday, countered that it was “proud” that 1 million jobless people were now subject to the “claimant commitment”, which sets out tougher requirements on the jobless to find work or risk losing their benefit payments.

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said: “It is only right that in return for government support – and in return for their benefits – jobseekers are expected to do all they can to find work. Although on benefits, they still have a job: the job is to get back into work.

“The claimant commitment, which is deliberately set to mimic a contract of employment, makes this expectation explicit. It has created a real change in attitudes. Already more than a million people have signed up to – and are benefiting from – this new jobseeking regime.”

Seems that Iain Duncan Smith forgets that it’s not government money that supports jobseekers, but rather their own, which was paid in tax contributions, in good faith that should any of us need state support, that support would be there to ensure we don’t become destitute or starve. It is not jobseekers attitudes that create jobs and a decent wage: that is the role of the government.People who are sanctioned can hardly be described as “benefitting” from a social scheme that was originally designed to support, not punish.

The Oxford-based research showed that between June 2011 and March 2014, more than 1.9 million sanctions were imposed on people receiving jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), with 43% of those sanctioned having their benefit claim ceased. Only 20% of those who left the benefit system gave as their stated reason that they had found work.

As I have stated before, the Department for Work and Pensions conducts no systematic research into what happens to those sanctioned, so the new findings start to fill an evidential gap in what has been one of the biggest but least publicised changes to the welfare system since the government came to power.

The 1.9 million benefit removals between June 2011 and March 2014 represent a 40% increase compared with the previous seven years. The figures are based on official monthly and quarterly data from databases covering UK local authorities between 2005 and 2014.

Dispute has arisen about a central aspect of government welfare reform centres on whether jobcentre staff, driven by senior management, are following arbitrary and poorly communicated rules that punish not just the minority of those who don’t look for work, but some of the most vulnerable in society, including mentally ill and disabled people. Many independent witnesses have urged the DWP inquiry at least to suspend the sanctions regime for those claiming employment support allowance, the main disability benefit. Evidence, however, strongly suggests that most people receiving sanctions want to work and that sanctions are imposed because of targets, and so are not related to any claimant claim of non-cooperation or unwillingness to work at all. Rather, it’s the case that sanctions are punishing the vulnerable for being vulnerable.

Study author Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, said: “The data did not give us the full picture of why sanctioned people have stopped claiming unemployment benefit. We can say, however, that there was a large rise in the number of people leaving JSA for reasons that were not linked to employment in association with sanctioning. On this basis, it appears that the punitive use of sanctions is driving people away from social support.”

The study also shows widespread variation in how local authorities used sanctions. In Derby, Preston, Chorley and Southampton, researchers found particularly high rates of people being referred for sanctions. In some months, more than 10% of claimants in these areas were sanctioned – the highest rates nationwide.

Co-author Prof Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “There is a need for a cost-benefit analysis of sanctioning, looking at it not just in narrow terms of unemployment benefit, but also the bigger picture, focusing on employment, health, and other social costs.”

He added: “The coalition government has embarked upon an unprecedented experiment to reform social security. I hope policymakers will be informed by these findings and see the value of investigating the consequences.”

Separate evidence in front of the DWP select committee inquiry includes witness statements from former jobcentre staff suggesting senior management threaten staff if they do not take a harsh approach to claimants. There is also cumulative evidence that many of those sanctioned have little or no knowledge of why they are being punished.

The main union representing jobcentre staff, PCS – which was also due to give evidence on Wednesday to the select committee inquiry – suggests: “While there is considerable anecdotal evidence about the inappropriate use of sanctions, there is a lack of empirical evidence. We believe that DWP should publish a more detailed breakdown of sanctions, and specifically more detailed explanations as to why they were imposed. PCS’s survey of our adviser members showed that 61% had experienced pressure to refer claimants to sanctions where they believed it may be inappropriate to do so.”

DWP select committee member Debbie Abrahams said: “This government has developed a culture in which Jobcentre Plus advisers are expected to sanction claimants using unjust, and potentially fraudulent, reasons in order get people “off-flow”. This creates the illusion the government is bringing down unemployment.”

The government counters that its policies are turning the UK into “the jobs factory of Europe”, and dismisses the idea that the unemployment figures are being subverted by sanctions.

A DWP spokesman said: “As the authors admit themselves the data does not give a full picture. What we do know – according to independent figures from the Office for National Statistics – is that we now have a record number of people in employment in this country and there are two million more people in private sector jobs compared to 2010.”

That is a claim which is not very well substantiated by income tax revenue collected by the Treasury at all. (See also A letter of complaint to Andrew Dilnot regarding Coalition lies about employment statistics).


Related
: Cameron’s Nudge that knocked democracy down – a summary of the implications of Nudge theory

Jobless are being punished with hunger for claiming unemployment benefit, say churches

Hain’s horror as figures reveal four in five who have JSA sanctioned “don’t find work”

385294_195107567306966_1850351962_nMany thanks to Robert @LivingstonePics

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8 thoughts on “Research shows only a fifth of 2 million people find employment after losing jobseeker’s allowance

  1. Welcome to the Tories and Liberals (Lib Dems) in the 19th Century with the New Poor Law, that forbade feeding the starving outside of the workhouse. The workhouse killed 5 million people.

    97 per cent of benefit is to the working poor and poor pensioners, with only 3 per cent on the unemployed. (Source Labour Dame Anne Begg). Yet we have the huge admin costs of 1.9 million sanctions.

    The DWP itself gives reports that the cost of welfare admin is rising by the billions, whilst the money to claimants is falling.

    The rise in employment is mostly in working poor jobs, without a living wage.

    The bulk of people going to foodbanks are in work, either low waged or low income self employed today, as well as the sanctioned unemployed.

    So one has to ask, how many of the 1.9 benefit sanctioned have been within the huge rise of malnutrition hospital admissions being reported by doctors in The Lancet?

    I am unemployed but never been on Jobseekers. Anyway people over 60 denied state pension are not listed in government unemployment figures. I knew I could not comply with Jobseekers as I am disabled and chronic sick, with my mobility lessening by the year. Nil disabled / chronic sick benefits despite medically diagnosed.

    Now I know that in half a decade into the future I will never get a state pension, after a lifetime in work paying National Insurance contributions. Denied NI credits as never granted any benefit. Denied NI credits for elder care because I did not know I had that right til my disabled elderly parents had passed away two years before my application.

    New claimant pensioners on and from 6 April 2016 face nil state pension
    when this is vital money to the working poor on below a living wage and those benefit sanctioned, lost benefit of any kind and equally liable for the slavery of workfare, even when disabled.
    See why under my petition in my Why is this important section:
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/state-pension-at-60-now

    Already 2 million workers next year face nil or state pension as low as £55 per week (formal forecasts already gained for flat rate pension next year) with no top up, whereas current pensioners get £113.10 plus top up if paid the additional pension SERPs / S2P. The current pensioner is the lowest of all rich nations bar poor Mexico (OECD).

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  2. Came across this in another blog. This is why me at 61, denied state pension for life along with millions of others
    on and from 6 April 2016, never applied for Jobseekers.
    I am properly incontinent and the pain is extreme if try to hold water.
    Disabled. Chronic sick. Nil benefits. Nil state pension.
    See why under petition in my WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT section, at:
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/state-pension-at-60-now

    Will Labour shut all 750 Jobcentres and sack these staff and especially their managers with their 1.9 million benefit sanctions over last couple of years? I never got work from a Jobcentre as far back as 1977, others I have known over the years never did, and people in the blogosphere say the same between them to this day.

    http://www.katebelgrave.com/2015/01/now-for-our-next-trick-making-elderly-jsa-claimants-grovel-to-use-toilets-at-jobcentres/comment-page-1/#comment-178516
    NOW FOR OUR NEXT TRICK:
    MAKING ELDERLY JSA CLAIMANTS GROVEL TO USE TOILETS AT JOBCENTRES
    MORE ON THE SORT OF RITUAL HUMILIATION PEOPLE MSUT NOW TOLERATE AT JOBCENTRES
    AS A MATTER OF COURSE

    I attended a first JSA signing-on session last week with Tony, who is aged 60. These inaugural signon sessions at this jobcentre are not held as private, one-to-one meetings. People must attend these sessions as part of a group.

    This is a big problem in itself, because people don’t always want to reveal their private information in front of ten or 12 strangers. People must fill in their claimant commitment forms as part of this session. They have to write about their histories and work experience, and not everyone wants to ask the questions they have about these things in front of people they don’t know. People might be ex-offenders, or have long gaps in a work history because they have serious drug and alcohol problems. They may have problems with their reading and writing. On this occasion, one person asked me if I could spell out several words for their form.

    Anyway. The toilets. Someone in the group asked if there was a public toilet in the building. The adviser who was running the session said No. There was a public toilet at the jobcentre once, but apparently needles were found in it from time to time and the jobcentre closed it. So – that was the end of that. It was simply a case of Too Bad. No alternative was offered. There’s actually a public toilet at the library just round the corner (I am getting on years and so am kind of familiar with the location of pretty much every public latrine in the parts of London I frequent), but nothing was said about that.

    This is the sort of thing really gets on my wick. It seems small, but it isn’t. There’s a real vengefulness here. In any other setting, an effort would be made to solve the problem and offer people an alternative. But the normal courtesies aren’t extended to people who claim JSA. Quite the reverse. People who claim JSA are expected to put up with discomfort. They can wet themselves for all anybody cares. The fact that nobody had any choice but to attend the session and stay at it was neither here nor there. And there is no choice. People have to attend these signon sessions if they’re going to get unemployment money. If they don’t attend and stay, they can’t get JSA.

    The sessions are long – this one went on for more than an hour and people had to wait a while for it to start, so it probably lasted an hour-and-a-half all up. Add on another half-hour for the walk or bus ride there and you’re getting past a couple of hours.

    However. The adviser did say that occasionally, an exception was made to the No Toilet rule. People sometimes might be able to use the toilet if they had a special medical problem. Presumably, they had to convince an adviser and/or security guard that their medical problem measured up.

    This is exactly what Tony had to do. He’s 60 and not well. After an hour or so, he had to get up in front of the 12 people in the room, interrupt the adviser and whisper a list of his medical problems to see if he could win himself a visit to the toilet. Seriously. Aged 60. Everyone else in the group (the room was small) sat there watching this and trying to work out what was going on, and waiting to see how the adviser would play it. The adviser thought about it and listened some more and in the end, I guess, decided that Tony had a case. So, he told Tony to walk through the main part of the jobcentre to the security guards and to tell them he was allowed to use the toilet. Tony left the room – and returned in a few minutes to take the adviser aside again. He told me afterwards that the guards had said No to his request and sent him back to the room. A bit desperate now, he asked the adviser if he could tell the guards he was allowed to use the toilet. The adviser seemed stressed by this – “I can’t leave the room,” he said – but decided to solve the problem by opening the door and attracting the attention of the security guards across the main waiting area.

    So much for dignity.

    And that was that.

    This is, just by the way, the sort of scenario speaks in a roundabout way of the reasons why I don’t have any truck with notions of “deserving” or “underserving” when it comes to social security. Everyone is deserving as far as I’m concerned and should be as far as you’re concerned as well. I don’t care what people did in their former lives – and I meet people who did some pretty terrible things, often to other people. All that matters is the immediate need that someone has when they turn up at a place like a jobcentre.

    Once you – or the state, at least – start implying that certain people are beneath contempt, you begin to find that the normal courtesies are no longer extended to those people. You find malice. You find institutional spite.

    You find yourself sitting in a crowded room in a jobcentre trying to avoid everyone else’s eye as a grizzled 60-year-old man grovels to use a toilet.

    That’s the sort of scenario that IDS’ grand welfare reforms come down to. I don’t care how much tax you pay, or how much right you think you should have to dictate standards to people who claim benefits. There’s not a person in the world who is entitled to impose malevolence.

    Happy Saturday.

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  3. I think we should stop talking about unemployment and talk about job shortages instead. Unemployment implies there are jobs to go to and it is the unemployed persons fault. Job shortages describes the situation that the government has caused and it is their job to fix.

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