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Liam Byrne

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The DWP Is Guilty of Incompetence on an Industrial Scale

Posted: 19/03/2013 17:49

The chaos at DWP knows no bounds. They've given us a Work Programme worse than doing nothing. Universal Credit is descending into universal chaos. And now the department has bodged its regulations so badly that a Court of Appeal judgement has struck down its general power to issue sanctions of any kind shape or form. Incredible.

The government has had the right to issue sanctions since out of work benefits were introduced in 1911. Only IDS could be so hopeless as to get that wrong.

Let's be very clear. Tuesday's debate isn't about the Poundland case. But at the same time as the Court of Appeal ruled on the Poundland case - it also struck down the department's powers to sanction because they were so badly drafted in 2011. That means almost 230,000 sanctions might be illegal. That's incompetence on an industrial scale.

Now we believe that government should have a general power to issue sanctions - but we also profoundly believe than Ministers have a duty to bring forward back to work schemes that actually work.

We believe young people, and those trapped on the dole long term, should have a real choice of a real job with real wages - funded by a tax on bankers' bonuses and reform of pension perks for the very rich.

That way, no-one would face a future without hope of getting real paid work. But our schemes would also be backed up by sensible sanctions - it's a principle we support and that's why we won't block the restoration of a general power that has always been in place.

There are two further demands I have of the government. First, we must have appeal rights put beyond doubt - so that anyone who is wrongly sanctioned can appeal and wrong sanctions can be sorted.

That means protecting the 13 month appeal window - and protecting the wide ranging 'good causes' on which people can appeal, including full time study, being trapped on unsuitable courses or bereavement.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to see an independent review of sanctions - with an urgent report to Parliament. There are simply too many horror stories - not least from food banks - about people being sanctioned without good cause.

The bottom line is that right now, there aren't enough jobs to go round. That's why we need a budget for jobs and growth. And that's why the DWP ought to now look at the incredible work pioneered by Labour councils to get people back to work.

The scale of incompetence at DWP is now such that we need an independent review into what went wrong. The West Coast Mainline fiasco cost the taxpayers millions. This sanctions fiasco risked costing the taxpayer even more. Frankly, we need to know what went wrong. The public, and Parliament alike, now need to know just why the secretary of state should be permitted to stay in his job a moment longer.

 

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