Saturday, 23 March 2013

Stella Creasy MP: Whistleblowers & The Work Programme vote

This is an item from this week's Working for Walthamstow newsletter produced by Stella Creasy MP. To subscribe to the newsletter email

The Work Programme: 
Walthamstow Whistleblowing Letter 
and Westminster Vote
This week many residents contacted me following their concerns about the Jobseekers (Back to work) schemes bill. This Bill was emergency legislation presented to parliament on Tuesday to address a failure by the Government to draft the regulations around the use of sanctions in the welfare regime. This bill itself did not enable sanctions to be applied (which have been part of our welfare system for over a century) or refer specifically to the Work Programme and the way in which sanctions are used within this scheme. It defined that an appeal against the imposition of a sanction for any form of welfare benefit cannot be bought against the DWP solely on the grounds that these specific regulations were not adequate when first published.

I did not vote for this bill, but in negotiations with the Government on the timetable for it Labour was able to secure two very important concessions- the guarantee for all those who have been sanctioned under the welfare regulations of the right to appeal and an independent inquiry into the way in which sanctions are used. I supported this move because for the past few weeks I have been investigating an allegation brought to my attention by a whistleblower regarding the setting of targets for the numbers of sanctions given to job seekers in Walthamstow, whether they are seeking work or not. You can read the sickening correspondence here including details of the deeply unjust approach to dealing with the unemployed staff in our local job centre had been told to implement. 
On Tuesday I could not raise this matter or discuss it without compromising this investigation. I apologise to residents who may have felt I was not clear at this time as to why I was supportive of the importance of this independent review and hope this clarifies why. 

I was finally able to confirm this correspondence was genuine late yesterday and you can read about this matter in the national Guardian. The Government are now trying to claim the policy comes from one 'rogue manager'. This confirms to me the importance of an impartial and independent inquiry into the use of sanctions-  as I do not believe a lone manager in Walthamstow job centre could create a leaguetable or a 5% target as described- and so feel we can trust the DWP to investigate this properly. Indeed, shockingly today the Secretary of State himself again tried to claim this policy doesn't exist and there are no sanctions - and threatened any staff who were using such targets with disciplinary action. Given this, I believe we need to know urgently who is responsible for this policy and I am working with colleagues in parliament to provide protection for any further whistleblowers.

I believe the Government's Work Programme is out of control as well as bad value for money and I made a speech about this today in the House of Commons which you can read here or watch here (starting at 12.08pm). If you have any further information about the management of this service or wish to seek my help in making an appeal against any sanction you may have endured under the Work programme in the last thirteen months please do get in touch. 

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