Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pulp Fiction - DWP at Work

So what we always knew is now admitted. The Department of Work & Pensions tells lies.

Picture - Philip Absolon
 In this case, it is in their propaganda. They have made up quotes and used actors for stories of people supposedly put back on "the right track" by having their benefits sanctioned. Odd, isn't it, how the Tories (and previously their Lib Dem orcs) claim to oppose the so-called "nanny state", yet they more than anyone patronise our citizens over the need to be corrected, disciplined into being the deserving poor.

One "story" is particularly appalling because, although the person on the leaflet is not real, the tale almost certainly illustrates the experience of many. "Sarah" was advised by the benevolently guiding hand of her kindly work coach to produce a curriculum vitae (c.v.) to aid her search for employment. Although she didn't think it would help, Sarah agreed to produce a cv. But she didn't do it quickly enough and missed a meeting with Obi Wan Worksearchi, so she got a letter cutting her benefit for two weeks. Now however it is back to normal and Sarah is really pleased to have a good cv. "It's going to help me when I am ready to go back to work."

Except perhaps the last sentence is the cruelest of all. Worse than the sanctions almost. Because in terms of gaining employment, cvs are only of marginal help in gaining employment and the lack of one is certainly not a valid reason to sanction someone's benefits. C.V.s are eclectic in layout and content, rarely geared to the job being applied for and in the majority of cases if you use one to apply to any medium or larger employer, often as not they are likely to be consigned to the shredder.

Indeed, the Government's own advisory employment body, ACAS, guides employers to use their own application forms NOT cvs.

"Application forms can help the recruitment process by providing necessary and relevant information about the applicant and their skills....CVs can be time-consuming and may not provide the information required." (ACAS Recruitment & Induction Guidance Booklet, page 15)

The DWP has had to withdraw these "illustrative" fables, but what are they up to? Are they really trying to provide unemployed people with a hand up? Or are they simply piling agony on vulnerable people to grind them down?

The truth is, if Sarah was real, she would be one of the people who, to keep their benefits, are required to "contract" to apply for dozens of jobs each week simply to keep their benefits. Quantity is how it is counted and what matters; not chances of success or actual outcomes. And their cvs are the means to do so - scattered ed from Job Clubs like confetti in every direction, applying for work the applicants often know little to nothing about, are not qualified to do and have no chance of getting. But proof to their patronising gauleiters that they are complying and obeying their orders. Even if it is near pointless and at best cruelly misleading to jobseekers.

Our society is rotten and sick to the core - 50% of sanctions appealed against are overturned. While on the one hand it shows the system can be challenged successfully, that very statistic shows its sheer inhumanity. So many do not appeal because they either don't understand how to or fear rocking the boat further. But more than this it shows the appalling nonchalance with which they are doled out by DWP staff who are now known to be working to targets to impose sanctions. So, even if everyone complied, many would still be sanctioned nevertheless.

 With ever more punitive measures being introduced to force people into low paid jobs and even unpaid "experience",  the depths to which freeloading Ministers like Ian Duncan Smith are prepared to sink in their war on the poor seem to scoop ever lower. And the doublespeak and doublethink drilled into the skulls of DWP staff carrying out their directives become ever more twisted until the outsourced wretches who day by day impose sanctions come to view their clients not as fellow humans needing help but as targets.

This may be some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, some means of psychologically getting by, who knows, but it manifests itself not only in ever more bizarre decisions, but in their behaviour. A while ago we saw the official working for DWP contractor ATOS who blogged about clients as "parasitic wankers". A DWP worker left and reported that she "got brownie points for cruelty", including phoning a man in hospital to sanction him at her manager's insistence. Meanwhile, a number of terminally ill benefits claimants have been asked to estimate how soon it will be before they are dead.

All this is done in our name - and if not already then one day, whoever we are, however arrogantly we may think it never will be, however impervious to the unforeseen we feel, it could be any one of us being sanctioned.

So IDS becomes Kafka. Josef K should have done that c.v.

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