JSA claimants likely to be sanctioned after 11 months

Thu, 06/11/2014 - 13:12 -- nick

Hated Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was making one of his regular appearances in front of the parliamentary committee that oversees him yesterday - and revealed some shocking truths.

His famous short temper was well in evidence, at one point calling a committee member "ludicrous" for asking a vital question on how many people had died after being sanctioned, a key issue particularly with ESA claimants who suffer long-term illnesses.

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams- for it was she - was pursuing the important idea that too many people leave JSA without finding work, but Smith was not in the mood to entertain serious enquiries that didn't fit with his 'everything is rosy in the garden of unemployment' narrative.

Abrahams pointed out that 75% of all growth in jobs is in self-employment, and that their average earnings are only £10,000, £3,000 less than a full-time minimum wage employee.

In trying to defend himself, Smith said that more than two-thirds of the rise in self-employment comes from full-time workers, perhaps not realising his admission that these people are in poverty despite working long hours - hardly a recipe for a decent life or buoyant economy.

His big idea to cut benefits for those under 21 also received raised eyebrows. The obvious issue is what happens to those who don't have parents to rely on (they will be taken care of in some undefined way apparently) and to those who work and then lose their jobs before they are 21 having already moved out of home.

Smith's only answer to this was that the work jobcentres do with young people in schools should mean fewer leaving with no skills, hardly an answer and more evidence that, when it comes to punishing those without work, he and his government are in a class of their own.

He still wants to pretend that endless staff cuts in jobcentres can lead to more services, shovelling even more tasks into advisors' workloads in promising they will work with those on Universal Credit who are working part-time.

But the real smoking gun came with the admission that jobseekers have a 5% chance of being sanctioned every month.

If that doesn't sound like much, consider it this way - a claimant would only have to be on JSA for eleven months before they had a better-than-evens chance of being thrown off it.

Advisors work to well-documented targets for sanctions, and these have been increasing their number for years regardless of the offences committed.

In response to this obvious problem and the misery it causes, Dame Anne Begg, the chair of the committee, announced her own enquiry, and this should make Iain Duncan Smith's blood run cold.

He must be hoping he loses his seat at the next election rather than face the consequences of his terrible actions, having somehow, unaccountably, managed to keep his job for the whole four years of the coalition government.

This new enquiry is likely to be highly critical of him given his victimisation of the workless and disabled.

He deserves every bit of it.