Roger Demands Urgent Investigation into Allegations of Unjustified Benefits Sanctions in Birmingham Jobcentres.
Following a number of complaints from constituents, Birmingham MP, Roger Godsiff, has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, asking him to investigate, as a matter of urgency, the number of sanctions which are being handed out to benefits claimants at local Jobcentre Plus offices in Birmingham.
Roger Godsiff said: “I am receiving an increasing number of complaints from constituents who have had benefits suspended for periods of up to 4 wks on the first occasion because Jobcentre Plus advisors believe that claimants have not been doing enough to find work even when they can show clear evidence of meeting the job search requirements.
He continued: “Set against the background of rising unemployment, an increasing number of people being passed ‘fit for work’ by dubious and clearly flawed Atos assessments, cuts to housing benefits which have seen landlords automatically sending out eviction notices, the last thing claimants need is a ‘kangaroo court’ where their only lifeline of support is withdrawn.
Again, the suspicion is that underlying all of this is that sanctions are being applied as an instrument in themselves to reduce benefits and I have asked to Secretary of State a number of questions including whether or not staff at Jobcentres have been given targets for applying sanctions and what recourse claimants have to overturn a decision if they feel that sanctions have been unjustly applied.
Roger concluded: “Currently, there is growing lack of clarity on the delivery of new services and this includes Universal Jobmatch (UJM) which I understand is being rolled out to jobseekers attending the Kings Heath JobcentrePlus and will replace the notice boards on which vacancies are advertised. Constituents are complaining that they are being ‘told’ to sign up for this new service but it is unclear whether or not to sign up is mandatory and whether failure to sign will again incur sanctions.”
Birmingham job seeker, Cait Reilly, took the DWP to court after she was told by her local Job Centre in King's Heath , despite DWP rules to the contrary, that she would lose her benefits if she did not take a Poundland placement as part of the government’s Work Programme.