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Doubtful

This is a story I came across a couple of days ago, though it's dated from last month. Consequently I don't know the final outcome and hope the person concerned has gotten a proper resolution. It's an interesting insight into the nature of the sanction regime. 

What seems to have happened is that Mrs Wilkes, in falling foul of the increasingly ubiquitous jobsworthian mentality at the DWP (I guess it's easier for these people to sleep at night this way), has been sanctioned by default. 

Firstly her claim is called into question for no good reason, but the adviser is apparently allowed to just 'question' it as they see fit. Querying this only makes their opinion harden and so the 'doubt' is sent behind the scenes upstairs to a decision maker. Yet in the meantime her benefit is stopped. I have long suspected, having been told this by the DWP years ago, that this is now normal practise: guilt is presumed and, before even a decision can be made officially, the customer is effectively sanctioned. This is wrong on every level and must be opposed. Yet, despite all their claims to Labour being the party of the scrounger, it was Labour that introduced these tougher rules.

But it gets worse, at the time the article is written Mrs Wilkes is still waiting for that decision. She was 'sanctioned' in May, yet by August all she knows is that she should hear a decision in September. This is extraordinary: if they decide(d) against her she would only get sanctioned for two weeks. This is because it's her first 'offence' and we know what the rules are because that nice Mr Grayling wrote to us all a month or so ago telling us (in the wake of the court hearing about workfare, remember?) that a first transgression is a two week sanction. So where is the justice? Doubtless the DWP will argue that all due benefit will be backdated, but that doesn't help the claimant in the here and now - especially one with a disabled husband for god's sake! How can it be right that the DWP, through its own mealy mouthed feckless shirking, can simply call a halt to someone's claim on the basis of a 'doubt' without even an official decision first (this of course assumes that the decision maker will find in the claimant's favour).

The nasty part of this is that it allows the DWP, deliberately or otherwise, to circumvent the sanction rules. Thus a two week first offence bears a much more punitive consequence, all because of the DWP's intransigence, ignorance and incompetence. Will the adviser in question bear any liability? Will the DWP throw claimants like this a bone in lieu of a decision that should have been made 4 months earlier? I think we can guess.

Of course this all assumes that Mrs Wilkes is indeed innocent. But then why should I assume otherwise? I don't know her, but I, like you, know what the DWP are like. Perhaps this is a deliberately punitive tactic? Maybe it's just the system unable to cope anymore, no thanks to the Fuhrer, IDS. Either way it matters not. What's important is that people are being adversely affected by a heartless system.

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