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Harassment and victimisation by Jobcentre


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A friend of mine has been having problems with the Jobcentre for some months now.

To summarise the problem, in the latter part of last year he had over 10 weeks without any benefts whatsoever and no income, due to an error on the part of Jobcentre Plus and Working Links. In the end the CAB took up his case and obtained £300 compensation for him and an admission from Working Links of their part in the problem.

At this point he went on the sick for several weeks due to an injury and when he signed off the sick on 25th March, and signed back on JSA this was his first contact with Jobcentre staff since his victory.

 

From the moment he signed back on he was treated badly and to date has still not received any JSA, although they have failed to give any written reason. He has rquested an emergency payment over a week ago and nothing has happened.

Today he's received a letter accusing him of an incident on the phone in which a member of staff apparently felt intimidated by him. His name has been marked as potentially violent and they have threatened him with the police.

 

I was actually present with him when the call in question took place and there was no intimidation or violence on his part. The JSA person on the other hand was obstructive and hung up on him. He had to call back and made a complaint about this with the person's manager.

They also say in their letter that they have notified the local authority and other organisations that he is a potential violent threat to them. THIS IS ABSOLUTE NONSENSE and what I'm looking for is advice and suggestions please as to how to help him fight this. He is due to sign on tomoorow but will not now attend because he feels sure, and I agree with him that if he does he will be set up.

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He's decided to go along to the CAB tomorrow morning and is arranging for a letter to be delivered to the Jobcentre telling them he will not be attending to sign on, until he is given permission to record the interview and take a witness.

I'm appalled that they can fabricate an allegation, without any evidence and pass untrue detrimental information to "other organisations with whom he may have dealings".

If anyone has any ideas for him, I'll pass the on, thanks.

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I absolutely love it when a 'Government organisation' rattles peoples cages and acts with near impunity. JCP are renowned for their inept untrained and incompetent staff, although I must admit it is rather unfair to tar them all with the same brush, but the classic blend of arrogance and know it all would be damagingly out of place if it were how a parent treated their ten year old child.

If it were me in his shoes, I would SAR them to see exactly what it is they have on file about him and exactly why they feel he intimidates them so:???:

Then when he has the info threaten them with falling foul of the law in which under the malicious communications act 1988 Any person who sends to another person— (a) a letter or other article which conveys—

(i) a message which is indecent or grossly offensive;

(ii) a threat; or

(iii) information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender; or

(b) any other article which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature,

is guilty of an offence if his purpose, or one of his purposes, in sending it is that it should, so far as falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above, cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends that it or its contents or nature should be communicated.

Quite possibly this won't have the desired effect, so a letter to the information commissioner may help, certainly exhaust the JCP's complaints procedure

Good administration by public bodies means:

 

1. Getting it right

 

2. Being customer focused

 

3. Being open and accountable

 

4. Acting fairly and proportionately

 

5. Putting things right

 

6. Seeking continuous improvement

 

This is worth a read also,

Failure to appreciate the full scope of the injustice caused by maladministration

As with anything this government meddles with, don't expect an overnight quick fix!;)

Who ever heard of someone getting a job at the Jobcentre? The unemployed are sent there as penance for their sins, not to help them find work!

 

 

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Patma, the only problem I can see there is that if he refuses to sign on for whatever reason, even if it is a good reason, it is very likely his claim will be stopped. Depending on which department he spoke to the call may have been recorded so he could obviously follow the usual channels mentioned in the previous post. He can refute the allegation and he should make a written complaint while he is awaiting the outcome of the SAR. I really wouldn't recommend him not signing on though. That letter sounds like the standard letter that goes out when an incident is noted.

 

I really resent the comment in the previous post. While you are entitiled to your opinion and can obviously express it in this open forum, I do resent it greatly. Please remember that people from this very agency, myself included, come on here to try and help people. It's not at all helpful to anyone, even the OP and just generates rants like mine!

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I agree with Sue in that if he fails to sign on, they do reserve the right to impose a "sanction" on his claim, so i would urge you to urge him to go along and sign on. Perhaps you could accompany him if it makes him feel better to have someone with him?

 

I'll explain as best I can about Potentially violent markings. I am aware from your OP that you have said your friend was not intimidating, so I am not judging that any of the below actually took place, they are just examples.

 

People can be marked "Potentially Violent" for a number of reasons, although it is not something which should be handed out lightly and certainly not as the result of one communication unless that communication was extreme. When there is an incident whereby a civil servant has felt intimidated, there are procedures to be followed, they cannot just make a person a "marked man". In this process there are usually 3 to 4 seperate people involved. The final person is usually someone in an entirely different office who makes the decision on whether or not a person should be marked as Potentially Violent. However in the case of "someone feeling intimidated" where no direct threat was made, perhaps the use of obscene language or raised voice, or even just the manner or tone, the local office usually ask the person accused of this to come in for an informal chat about the incident.

 

Sometimes it is all about perception. What may seem perfectly normal to one person may be viewed as offensive or intimidation by another, and misunderstandings happen. Some people for example, cannot get through a sentence without the use of a swear word. They don't necesserily mean any harm by it; it may just be the way they are. However an individual may not find swearing at all acceptable whereas another person will accept that it is just the way the person is.

 

After a chat, it can often be established that the incident was a one off, based on particular circumstances and that's the end of it. In other instances, some people think they have an ultimate right to shout and swear down the phone at people whenever they feel like it. the long and short of it is, Potentially violent markings should only be given to people where there is a risk of them being violent. "Violent" in these cases is not restricted to physical violence.

 

As regards moving forwards, I would urge your friend to take the advice given and SAR the JCP. In addition, he does have the right to challenge a potentially violent marking, were no details of this provided in the letter? He should keep as much as he can in writing as a paper trail can be the difference in a "he said/she said" situation, and again I would encourage him to keep contact with the CAB, however I would further encourage him to contact a Welfare Rights Officer whom he can locate through the council, there service is free and they can represent him - they will more likely have more knowledge than the CAB as is often the case. They will push for a decision on his jobseekers allowance, as his first concern is receiving money to survive on. If he feels unfairly treated he needs to make a formal complaint about that (again in writing as with everything). If there is still no joy from his Jobseekers claim and it has gone over the alloted time scales, I would encourage him to speak to his Member of Parliment. MP's really get things moving when there are problems and nothing else seems to be moving things forward.

 

Best of luck.

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against

forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.

(exceptions for prior authorisation)

 

 

 

 

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Thanks to everyone for your helpful comments and advice.

Sandysue and Erika, I offered to go along to be a witness when he signs on, but apparently only those actually signing are allowed in and he has to get permission to take someone with him, so we await a decision on that.

 

Bazooka, I love the info about The Malicious Communications Act, definitely one to keep up our sleeve if all else fails.

 

Erika thankyou for setting out what might constitute a "violent marking". It reinforces the impression that he is being victimised, as nothing of what you describe has occurred. He is not the type to swear indiscriminately and certainly didn't during the alleged intimidating call. He does speak slightly loudly because he's deaf, but that is all documented and they should take this into account. He has repeatedly asked them to put things in writing instead of phoning him but they have persisted in phoning and never follow up with written confirmation of what has been discussed. The reason I was standing by the phone when the call in question took place was so that I could help if he missed any of what was being said, so I know exactly what took place.

Thanks again everyone and I'll let you know what happens.

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In addition, he does have the right to challenge a potentially violent marking, were no details of this provided in the letter?

No details of this at all were mentioned. In fact he doesn't even know what the intimidating behaviour was, they haven't gone into any detail at all. They make a big thing of threatening that they will call the police if "it"should happen again, and say that the potentially violent stigma will stay with him for a year.

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Let us know how things work out. I would again stress that he should get a formal representative such as someone from welfare rights to assist him. Did he sign on today?

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against

forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.

(exceptions for prior authorisation)

 

 

 

 

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I really resent the comment in the previous post. While you are entitiled to your opinion and can obviously express it in this open forum, I do resent it greatly. Please remember that people from this very agency, myself included, come on here to try and help people. It's not at all helpful to anyone, even the OP and just generates rants like mine!

 

I did not intend to make anyone resentful of my opinion, I merely gave advice on the merits of my own experiences, as I said in the post, it is unfair to tar them all with the same brush, my comments are my own, and it is my opinion.

Edited by Bazooka Boo

Who ever heard of someone getting a job at the Jobcentre? The unemployed are sent there as penance for their sins, not to help them find work!

 

 

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Hi everyone, I went along with my friend to the CAB this morning and it was suggested he should go along to sign on, and use a recording device at the interview to safeguard himself. The advisor also suggested asking if he could be accompanied by a friend.

So we went along and tried that, but it was refused. The upshot was we left after my friend made clear to the manager that he felt intimidated by the threats made against him without knowing what he was actually accused of. When we got there there was a police car parked outside and police walking about inside and I was glad to get out of there, I can tell you.

He now faces sanctions apparently, which will no doubt mean his benefits is stopped, he left a letter of complaint at the Jobcentre and is going to fight this all the way, sanctions or not.

On the positive side the CAB were great and are going to give him plenty of support. They were instrumental in fighting on his behalf a few months ago when the Jobcentre messed up and left him without any money for 10 weeks. This time though, they've smeared his name too and that is just not acceptable.

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On the positive side the CAB were great

 

I have to say that bringing a tape recorder to a jobcentre is not a great piece of advice.

 

I do sympathise with your case Patma, and the advice on here has been great but attempting to record an interview in a government building is not something that will help your cause.

 

By the way, when I'm talking about "you" in this next part I am referring to your friend.

 

As Erika has said, a PV (potentially violent) marker is not something given out lightly and is not always intended to mark people as dangerous. It is more often given out to let staff who do visits that the person they are visiting has caused another member of staff to view them as potentially a problem.

 

However, one phone call should not really do this. The first time a DWP employee reports someone the manager has the option of either sending a warning letter out from the DWP solicitors or sending a letter as well as marking them as PV.

 

In this case, the problem seems to be that the manager who made the decision has decided that what the officer wrote warrants a marker. This is a discretionary decision but you should take this up with the person who made this decision. They don't need to justify their reason but they should take a look at the incident and think about whether it was correct to mark you as PV.

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Thanks for your comments insyder,

I have to say that bringing a tape recorder to a jobcentre is not a great piece of advice.

 

In retrospect you're obviously right about that, but isn't that quite an indictment of our society that it's accepted without question that our government offices are free to film us by CCTV the moment we set foot within them and can record our conversations if they choose to do so,yet we don't have the right to equal treatment to protect ourselves from maladministration.

 

As Erika has said, a PV (potentially violent) marker is not something given out lightly and is not always intended to mark people as dangerous.

I fully accept that the above quote represents the ideal, as probably laid down by guidelines, but in this case,it has not been followed and the jobcentre customer surely must have some protection when members of staff abuse the system.

I'm afraid it all seems very high-handed to me and I'm very glad I'm retired and don't need to get involved with such an outfit.

Edited by Patma
missed a word out
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I have to say that bringing a tape recorder to a jobcentre is not a great piece of advice.

I do sympathise with your case Patma, and the advice on here has been great but attempting to record an interview in a government building is not something that will help your cause.

 

I'm inclined to disagree, not to open up a debate on the rights or wrongs of recording interviews in the event of maladministration, but if the conversation is not over the phone, which I can record, nor a hard copy ie. a letter then I will very often record my conversations with the DWP or whilst in an interview with my local council benefits department.

I carry a digital dictaphone with me which has a small discreet external microphone attached to it, it serves to remind me of the content of the conversation, not to trip anyone up and apportion blame, but as I have a brain injury and have great difficulty remembering things, I am able to replay the conversation over, and remind myself exactly what it was that I said, or didn't say!

IMHO every time I have explained that I would like to record the conversation due to my injury they have not batted an eye lid and have agreed. Those that haven't, I've not spoken to and asked for everything to be put in writing or get another member of staff who does not mind being recorded.

As with recording phone conversations, it isn't illegal, as the only people that will hear it are yourself and the organisation your dealing with.

without question that our government offices are free to film us by CCTV the moment we set foot within them and can record our conversations if they choose to do so,yet we don't have the right to equal treatment to protect ourselves from maladministration.

Thats only because we have allowed them to do this, until such time they realise that we can make them accountable for their actions it will remain so.

Which is why I record my interviews with them, they don't need to know your doing it, after all I don't always start my phone conversations with 'this call is being recorded' so why tell them you are recording the interview?

Once again before I get a battering from fellow CAGers for giving bad advice, this is my own opinion and a strategy I have put in place to help me lead a 'normal' life. So if your uncomfortable with recording the interviews insist on having a 'friend' sit in on all face to face interviews.;)

Edited by Bazooka Boo
Typo!
  • Haha 1

Who ever heard of someone getting a job at the Jobcentre? The unemployed are sent there as penance for their sins, not to help them find work!

 

 

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Thats only because we have allowed them to do this, until such time they realise that we can make them accountable for their actions it will remain so.

Bazooka, I couldn't agree with you more, well said. They get incredibly defensive when you insist on your rights and if they have nothing to hide, then they shouldn't worry about being recorded.

My friend walked out of the Jobcentre the other day because he was refused the use of a recording device and he too has good reasons for needing one over and above the need to prove he is not threatening. He has hearing loss and learning difficulties and his recording device was actually issued to him when he was a student so that he could record lectures etc and to assist him in the way you describe. All of this has gone into the complaint he's made. Actually all the threatening behaviour has been coming from their side.

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He has hearing loss and learning difficulties and his recording device was actually issued to him when he was a student so that he could record lectures etc and to assist him in the way you describe. All of this has gone into the complaint he's made.

 

Oh dear, oh dear, read this at your leisure then pick and choose what offence under this act they have committed!;)

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

Who ever heard of someone getting a job at the Jobcentre? The unemployed are sent there as penance for their sins, not to help them find work!

 

 

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Oh dear, oh dear, read this at your leisure then pick and choose what offence under this act they have committed!:wink:

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

 

mmmmm....now this is fun,let me see now.

We have one Jobcentre client with disabilities. These disabilities are fully documented and the Jobcentre was presented with the documentation from the outset.

Fast forward a little in time and a dispute arises in which the said disabled person/client has obtained a small amount of casual part-time self-employed work. He is told by Working Links that he will be entitled to claim JSA when he earns less than the minimum amount needed to live on, but when the worse happens, there is little or no work and he needs to claim, oh dear that was the wrong advice and the Jobcentre tell him he can claim nothing.

Eventually after 10 weeks with no income at all and having made many complaints/appeals in writing, the CAB are appealed to and they immediately tell him he should have been receiving income support, but the Jobcentre and Working Links, in their wisdom, didn't bother to tell him that.The outcome is the CAB obtain £300 compensation.

As soon as the disabled person goes back on JSA, he meets obstacles at every turn. They ring him umpteen times, despite being asked repeatedly to put everything in writing and then to cap it all he gets the offending letter telling him he's a potential threat and they've pased this info to all and sundry.

The final insult of course being the fact that his reasonable request to use a recording device,is refused hence unable to sign on.

 

It looks like S.21 DDA would do for starters.

I'm thinking the Data Protection Act might have been breached too, not to mention defamation of character.

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Ha ha, can of worms i feel:D

Under the DDA, discrimination occurs where:

 

  • a disabled person is treated less favourably than someone else
  • the treatment is for a reason relating to the person's disability
  • the treatment cannot be justified

In some situations, less favourable treatment may amount to "direct discrimination" and this cannot be justified.

Discrimination may also occur where:

 

  • there is a failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person

There are also measures in the DDA covering harassment and victimisation.

S.21B, S.21D, S.21E, This is also relevant.!

Oh dear, the devil makes work for idle hands ;)

Who ever heard of someone getting a job at the Jobcentre? The unemployed are sent there as penance for their sins, not to help them find work!

 

 

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Ha ha, can of worms i feel:grin:

 

I suspect they may be realising that too. So far he hasn't had any letter telling him he isn't entitled to any benefit because of not signing on, so methinks they're taking advice on that, before they shoot themselves even harder in the foot.

I'm very grateful for your idle hands in digging out these lovely relevant bits of the DDA :D, what lovely reading they are.

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The only point at which he will not receive a letter telling him his benefit has stopped because he has not signed on will be when his claim has been closed. If he didn't sign on then his claim will be closed after close of play at the end of the fifith working day after he was due to sign. In reality, these aren't getting closed as quickly as that but if he then contacted the office, his claim would be closed. No warning letters will be sent because all of the requirements are explained in the JCP40, which is the signing on booklet issued at every interview. No health conditions are taken into account at this point because this is not discretionary. The only thing he can do is contac the Jobcentreplus Office immediately, make an appointment and complete Decision Making and Appeals action. This is generally where the customer has failed to sign for whatever reason and fills out a form explaining why they failed to sign. This is then faxed off to a Sector Decision Maker who is generally in a different office. Sometimes they will ask more questions about what has occurred but ultimately, they will make a decision about whether your friend had good cause not to sign on. This decision will be based on Social Security legislation. I do not believe it is a discretionary decision but I could be wrong on that. That is his only way forward. That, or to let the claim be closed and then make a Rapid Reclaim but that would obviously cause a break in his payments and may cause a break in any Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit. I can't remember whether you said he receives these or not.

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sandysue, thanks for your input. The reason my friend didn't sign on was because the Jobcentre manager refused him the use of a recording device to record his interview. Presumably he would likewise be refused the use of one at this Decision making and Appeals action appointment too however so this would not be a practical proposition.

Thankyou for explaining the procedure as the manager we discussed this matter with, when my friend went along to sign on, told us nothing of this process although we asked him to explain what would then happen. All he said was that he had no idea.

 

My friend is still owed 2 weeks benefit for which he met all the criteria, before the offending letter was sent to him however which has still not been paid. Also his housing benefit has not been paid for over a month with no explanantion as to why.

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:)Maybe I should do it secretly like I do the calls. Just caught off the hop yesterday when they rang, I cant remember half of what was said as couldnt remember how to get phone to record due to headache in the way, typical. Need a simpler phone:D

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stardust john, I think it would be a wise precaution to ask them to communicate only in writing with you, that way you would be able to keep track of all communications. Whatever jobcentre staff may say, you do have a right under The Disability Discrimination Act to have your reasonable needs met.

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