Job centre targets hit benefits of thousands
Published Date: 21 August 2011
By Jane Bradley
THOUSANDS of Scottish jobseekers guilty of minor infringements of benefits regulations have had their allowances frozen by "overzealous" job centre staff eager to meet targets, a new report by Citizens Advice Scotland has claimed.
The consumer organisation has called for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure that Jobcentre Plus staff do not use targets to impose "sanctions" on claimants. The move came after it emerged that the number of people who had their benefits cut after being found guilty of breaching rules rocketed by 459 per cent in two years.
A sanction means a Jobseeker's Allowance benefit can be suspended for up to 26 weeks if the claimant is found to have broken the regulations laid out by the job centre.
Citizens Advice Scotland claimed that Jobcentre Plus staff were implementing the sanctions too rigorously and interpreting the rules in a way which was counterproductive to the main aim of the organisation: to help jobseekers find work.
The DWP removed its "benchmark" figures for the number of people expected to be sanctioned by individual Jobcentre Plus offices earlier this year after officials were forced to admit that a "small number" of staff had interpreted the numbers as rigid targets, but Citizens Advice Scotland fears they could be eventually reintroduced.