‘Sanctioning’ is a particularly harsh and brutal way of treating unemployed people. They have all their benefit removed even for the most trivial infringements, e.g. being 5 minutes late for a job interview or for a work programme session. Their benefit (£71 a week JSA) is removed for 4 weeks for the first infringement, for 3 months for the second, and (almost unbelievably) for 3 years for the third. This quickly reduces the victims of this abhorrent policy to destitution and leaves them with no alternative but to beg for board and lodging from family or friends. There is no appeal against these decisions which could well be regarded as a breach of the common law by deliberately reducing a person to penury by administrative edict against which there is no redress. There are now nearly a million people who have been subject to this inhumane practice of sanctioning. That is awful enough, but it has now become clear there is another motive on the part of government driving this policy.
There has been great puzzlement in economic circles at the plunging drop in the unemployment figures over recent months from 7.8% to 7.1% which was far bigger than might be expected from the state of the economy and the very low level of labour productivity. It even caused consternation in the Bank of England where the governor Mark Carney was forced to revise his ‘forward guidance’ which had been based on raising interest rates when the unemployment level fell to 7%. It now seems this enigma can be explained. The government has adopted the utterly dishonest practice of excluding from the claimant count all those persons who have been sanctioned. Thus the abrupt fall in the claimant count is explained by the scam of regarding all sanctioned persons as no longer seeking work, though they clearly are.
What makes this wheeze even more contemptible is that the Office of National Statistics, set up specifically to verify the accuracy of official statistics, is being denied information by DWP about the impact of sanctioning on the unemployment figures. It seems that the Tories, having under Thatcher concealed the true levels of unemployment by re-classifying hundreds of thousands as ‘disabled’ instead – a classification from which they are now removing them by having Atos re-classify them back again as ‘fit for work’, have now concocted another fraudulent way of reducing the figures to burnish the Osborne recovery-that-never-was. They have also massaged the headline unemployment rate by basing it on a sample of just 41,000 or 0.16% of the population which is statistically meaningless. There seems no limit to Tory mendacity, but this one is certainly going to be nailed.