Quote: "The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted making up comments from supposed "benefit claimants" that appeared in a leaflet about sanctions.
The leaflet, which has now been withdrawn, included positive example stories from people who claimed to have interacted with the sanctions system.
In one example, titled "Sarah's story", a jobseeker is quoted as
being "really pleased" after a cut to her benefits supposedly encouraged
her to re-draft her CV.
"It's going to help me when I'm ready to go back to work," the fabricated quote reads.
But in response to a freedom of information request by the Welfare Weekly website the DWP said the quotes were not actually real cases and that the photos were not of real claimants.
“The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not
belong to real claimants. The stories are for illustrative purposes
only," the department said.
The leaflet, a copy of which is available in full at Welfare Weekly, contains no suggestion that the stories are not real.
The revelation is controversial because the sanctions system has been
criticised for causing extreme hardship and being operated in an unfair
and arbitrary way.
In March this year Parliament's Work and Pensions Select Committee
said there was evidence that sanctions were geared towards punishing
people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work.
The MPs said there was evidence that the benefit cuts for
unemployed people caused more problems than they solved and might be
Previous widely-criticised decisions include people being
sanctioned for missing jobcentre appointments because they had to attend
a job interview, or people sanctioned for not looking for work because
they had already secured a job due to start in a week’s time.
In one case a man with heart problems was sanctioned because he had a heart attack during a disability benefits assessment and thus failed to complete the assessment.
Charities including Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
say the sanctions are responsible for a significant increase in
homelessness and rough sleeping in Britain under David Cameron's
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, told the Independent that the department's actions were "sinister".
Another example shows the system working well
"It's disgraceful and sinister that DWP has been trying to trick people
into believing claimants are happy to have their benefits stopped or
threatened. Sanctions are unnecessarily punitive and counterproductive,
and should be scrapped," he said.
Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at the learning disability charity Mencap said the DWP had misled the public.
made up case studies present an unrepresentative view of the sanctions
regime and its impact on disabled people. Benefits are a lifeline to
many people with a learning disability who rely on them to make ends
"We know many people have been sanctioned because
Jobcentre staff don't understand their needs and place unrealistic
demands on them while not providing support they need. To mislead the
public on the effects of benefit sanctions in this way is unacceptable.”
The DWP added in the FOI response to the website: “We want
to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can
avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help
us achieve this.
“We have temporarily changed the pictures to silhouettes and
added a note to make it more clear that these are illustrative examples
“We will test both versions of the factsheet with claimants
and external stakeholders to further improve it in the future. This will
include working with external organisations.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman told the Independent:
“The case studies were used for illustrative purposes to help people
understand how the benefit system works. They’re based on conversations
our staff have had with claimants. They have now been removed to avoid
confusion”." Go to: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-admits-making-up-quotes-by-benefit-claimants-saying-sanctions-helped-them-10460351.html