Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions

Channel 4 had a programme about the sanctions regime last night which I wasn't able to watch.  I'd intended to catch up on it today, but decided not to bother.  When the producers seek an opinion from the odious Tory front group The Taxpayers' Alliance you know it's not an impartial programme, and posts on Twitter suggest it followed the government line.
The need for truth was highlighted in an extraordinary way in a Twitter exchange this morning.  Kevin Maguire, the Mirror journalist, tweeted: "Imagine being late for work one day and the boss docks your pay for a month.  That's how benefits sanctions work."  Someone replied that he had been 7 minutes late for an appointment and was sanctioned for 3 months.  In came the journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer.  She asked, politely enough, whether he'd been late before and if he'd been given a warning before.  Someone else waded in to point out that there are no warnings in the system and that sanctions are automatic.  Back came the snappy response from Brewer: "not true".  She was asked how she knew that, told politely she was wrong and the point about no warnings was repeated.
Ms Hartley-Brewer obviously doesn't like to be contradicted.  She snarled back: "have you ever tried talking to people who work in the benefits office AND people who've been sanctioned.  It helps."  (She was obviously too cross to pay attention to punctuation.)  The respondent said that she had worked in the system and would like to explain it to her, politely.  But it was too late.  Others waded in, one with a string of obscenities which played into Brewer's hands; she retweeted it.  The polite respondent left the fray and it descended into childish name-calling.  That Brewer was wrong in her original statement was never addressed, and those who were angry and feel themselves provoked were made to look like the baddies.
And that's the trouble.  It's usually impossible to contact a journalist directly, and that's understandable.  But it reinforces the power relationship.  She has a platform.  Whether she is telling the truth about her conversations we can't know.  It seems unlikely, given that she doesn't know what she's talking about.  But like everyone on the right she can ignore all the evidence and repeat government lies.  If she has read the recent reports by various churches she has discounted them.  If she followed the evidence given in the Work & Pensions Select Committee enquiry, she has discounted it.  She prefers to believe IDS, McVey et al because to do otherwise would be to shake her faith in Conservative politics.
There are lots of links I could post, but I'll stick to just one, which is very relevant here, although it's mainly about Universal Credit.  Helen Lewis wrote this excellent piece in the New Statesman last week.
If you haven't yet read Owen Jones' latest book, The Establishment, you really should.  (A4e gets coverage in a section on outsourcing.)  We knew the gist of Jones' argument; but he provides a wealth of facts and figures and pulls the threads together to present a frightening picture.  His concluding chapter contains a hopeful picture of what needs to happen.  But it won't, and that is depressing.


  1. I did watch the afore mentioned CH4 Dispatches prog. last night for my sins. It told us nothing we have not heard before. The Taxpayer Alliance goon repeated the lie that sanctions were a last resort and they were needed to essentially discipline jobseekers.

    The juiciest titbits from last nights program came from a couple of former JCP advisers who said sanction targets did exist. But again, those of us who keep abreast of the real issues already knew this.

    It would have been nice to have had at least one person who had suffered a sanction. Such as a friend of mine who I bumped into a couple of weeks ago. He told me he was sanctioned for a month recently. Why? Because he failed to apply to a particular vacancy. Fair enough some may say. However, he felt he could not apply due to the vacancy having the absolute minimum of details. According to him, there was no accurate job description, no details of where the company was based, and no contact phone number. When enquiring further, not even the JCP staff were any the wiser about the vacancy!

    As for Julia Hartley Brewer. Does (or did) she not write for the odious Daily Express? Nuff said!

  2. I also watched and agree with iMatt,a better show was "Four seasons" abc Australia,it is a mirror image of our so called W2W programme,strife with fraud and ineffective,yet no companies have been prosecuted,a few individuals,similar to A4E,but no real prosecutions,Aus $41 Million has been recovered,but this is the tip of the iceberg,same here,who or what is protecting these corporations? I am sure the list is long and distinguished!

  3. Brewer is wrong because if she remembers the Liberals proposed a 'yellow card' warning system which was rejected by her own party because it believes there should be no warnings. I find it staggering that is not aware her own parties policy re sanctions. This shows that she is liar and cannot be trusted.

    Furthermore the process for discipline in work is typically as follows:

    1. An informal warning,
    2. A verbal warning,
    3. A written warning,
    4. A final written warning.

    In other words you are granted four chances (in practise, of course, it will be more; I have worked with people who have been late dozens of times and not dismissed).

    Furthermore, if the Tories argument is that they are necessary to discipline lazy and unproductive people why have they not employed sanctions to everyone in work to boost the UK's horrific productivity output?

    Sanctions, then, do not reflect the reality of discipline in work. They are much harsher and effectively leave people with no income.

    Benefit sanctions have criminalised unemployment and it is a national disgrace.

    1. I would say from her reaction that Brewer was not lying about her belief that there are warnings in the system. After all, the government insists on this "last resort" line, which we know to be totally false but their supporters want to believe. I understand that it was even repeated on the Channel 4 programme.

    2. Even if she does not know that there are no warnings, and I stand by my assertion that she does (as do all Tories and their supporters), surely as a MP she should make it a priority to make herself aware of sanction procedure before commenting and repeating the lie that sanctions are a last resort?

      Ignorance is not a legitimate defence.

      The whole Tory manifesto is based on lies and ignorance, which is why Cameron doesn't want to debate it on TV.


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