DWP SANCTION PRESSURE CULTURE NEEDS INVESTIGATED
INDEPENDENT REVIEW ON DWP CALLED FOR FOLLOWING DAVID MUNDELL’S SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT APPEARANCE
South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine and three of her SNP colleagues on the Welfare Reform Committee have written to Ester McVey, the UK Minister of state for Employment, calling on her to command the Department Work and Pensions to commission an independent investigation to investigate evidence suggesting that DWP staff are pressurised into sanctioning people.
The letter follows David Mundell MP’s appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee last week where he denied DWP staff were being put under pressure to impose sanctions.
Mr Mundell, the under-Secretary of State for Scotland, refused to acknowledge comments from Inclusion Scotland’s Director of Policy Bill Scott who has told of DWP staff who have been warned that they will be disciplined because they have not imposed enough sanctions.
He also failed to address the results of a PCS survey which found 82% of staff questioned felt that they were under pressure to suggest more people who could be sanctioned and he rejected evidence form prominent south of Scotland charity organiser Mark Frankland on the grounds that he was a campaigner for a Yes vote in last year’s referendum.
Joan McAlpine MSP, a member of the Welfare Reform Committee, commented:
“During the evidence session, Mr Mundell refused to accept the findings of the Public and Commercial Services Union Survey which has shown pressure on staff to sanction is commonplace.
“Mr Mundell has shown scant regard for this body of evidence including that from Mr Scott, a key figure in a leading charity in Scotland – which is a totally inadequate position for junior minister of the UK government to take.”
“Mr Mundell’s comments stand in stark contrast to the evidence given at the Scottish Parliament by Inclusion Scotland’s Director of Policy Bill Scott – who has warned us that he is being made aware of this going on.”
“All David Mundell achieved at the Welfare Reform Committee was to confirm just how totally out of touch Westminster politicians are from the reality of people’s lives in Scotland – in May the voters will judge him.
“A strong team of SNP MPs elected in May and holding the balance of power at Westminster will always speak up for Scotland’s most vulnerable people and deliver the powers to help build a fairer and more equal Scotland.”
The letter to the DWP from SNP MSPs on the Welfare Reform Committee is attached.
This is the statement that David Mundell doesn’t recognise:
Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland: “Therefore there is a bit of sophistry within DWP when it says that no targets exist, no league tables exist and so on. In fact, that is what is happening in practice. I have messages on my mobile phone from Public and Commercial Services Union members who have been taken into disciplinary meetings to be told that they are being disciplined because they have not imposed enough sanctions. Other PCS members have been told that they will not be getting their annual uplift in pay—their increment—because they have not sanctioned sufficient people in the last year.”
Welfare Reform Committee report on sanctions, 2014:
The Committee report also states: “A recent survey by the PCS union of its members indicated that 25% believed that they had been given a target and 82% felt that they were under pressure to suggest more people who could be sanctioned.”
David Mundell on Targets:
Kevin Stewart MSP: “Can I ask you again Minister, will you agree to carry out an independent investigation into what has been stated by many many witnesses to this Committee that there is a target policy in place at the DWP?”
David Mundell: “There is no target policy in place; I am absolutely clear on that.”
David Mundell on the purpose of sanctions:
“I have concluded since I last came to this Committee that any research produced by ourselves would not necessarily command everybody’s acceptance and, therefore, it’s very important that we have independent evidence that we can all subscribe to.”
“I’ve set out for you that sanctions are not aimed at employment – they’re aimed at ensuring that people who are in receipt of working benefits look for work.”
David Mundell on disregarding evidence:
Joan McAlpine MSP: “One of the other organisations that distributes food in your constituency is FirstBase and they distribute food parcels, about 500 upwards, across Dumfries and Galloway. One of the areas the distribute food to is Kirckonnel and Cobholm in your constituency in Upper Nithsdale. And Mark Frankland has written quite extensively about his work in these former mining villages in Mid and Upper Nithsdale. […]
David Mundell: “For reasons we won’t go into in this Committee it won’t surprise you to know that I take what Mr Frankland says with a pinch of salt. […]
Joan McAlpine MSP: “I’m surprised you made that comment about Mr Frankland. He has been working in a voluntary capacity for food for a number of years helping veterans. So whatever his political views are I’m sure you would pay credit to his charity work?
David Mundell: “I think Mark has done a lot of very good work, particularly with drug users but having been a very prominent yes campaigner we could hardly take what he says as totally objective.
David Mundell on investigating unjust sanctions:
David Mundell: “Any case you, or any other elected representative, have of someone being unjustly sanctioned I will undertake to have that investigated because that is not what we are looking to achieve.”