A curious tale from the Jobcentre


by Flying Rodent    
11:19 am - June 11th 2013

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So I’m in a bar, speaking to this friend of mine, who we’ll call Bill.

Bill’s a defence lawyer in Glasgow, deals with shoplifters, sticky-fingered junkies and pavement boxers, that kind of thing.  He’s telling me about Mr S, who he’s just finished defending against a charge of fraudulent benefits claims.

“Mr S is in his fifties”, Bill says.  “He’s an engineer, worked in the same factory since he was nineteen.  Two years ago, boom, firm goes into administration and lays off the entire workforce.  Suddenly, it’s unemployment.  Mr S gets Jobseeker’s Allowance, but it’s a shitty way to live. He’s still trying to pay off his mortgage, two kids to look after, and nobody anywhere wants to hire a fifty-four year old engineer…”

“Sucks to be him” I say.

“Sure does.  So one day, Mr S shows up at the Job Centre.  The guy behind the desk says, we’ve been looking at your case, and you’ve claimed six hundred and fifty quid that you aren’t entitled to”.

“Over two years?” I ask, doing a quick calculation.  “My God, he’s been ripping us all off for more than six quid a week”.

Bill nods.  “Yeah, the guy’s a regular Ronnie Biggs.  So Mr S says it was an accident, that he ticked the wrong box, says the form was long and confusing”.

“Did you believe him?” I ask, thinking back to my own fortnight on the dole.  I had to fill in a form the size of a novella and I got the princely sum of eight quid, and no job offers…  And that was in 1999, the salad days by comparison.

“Hell,” Bill says, “The sheriff believed him, not that it did him any good.  I’ve seen those forms.  You need a degree in fucking advanced mathematics to work those things out.  Mr S is all like I’ve worked for every penny I’ve ever earned and I’ve never stolen nothing from anyone and all that shit”.

“Is it true?”.

“Who knows?  Who cares?  Not me, not the clerks, especially not the sheriff.  Intentional, unintentional, it’s all the same.  So anyway, the DWP are having this big crackdown on benefit cheats, and they’re not interested in Mr S’s offer to pay them back.  Pay them with what, the money they’re giving him?”

“We couldn’t have that”.

“No, heaven forfend.  Doesn’t matter whether he meant it, doesn’t matter whether he ripped off five hundred quid or fifty thousand.   Here he is sitting in a room with a sheriff, some lawyers and a pack of twitchy junkies and wham, conviction, there you go.  Guy never had a chance of getting off with it, really”.

“Bad luck for Mr S”, I say.  “I hope he gets a job soon. Imagine having to go back to the Jobcentre to grovel for change to the same guys that poled you up the backside like that”.

“Well, if he was struggling to get a job before, he sure isn’t going to find it any easier now that he’s got a criminal conviction for dishonesty.  You have to declare that to potential employers, you know”.

I whistled.  “Man, that’s harsh.  Does the government know this kind of thing is going on?”

Bill gave me a funny look, like I’d asked where babies come from.  “Mate, I told you – the government is pushing this crackdown so hard it’s a wonder their arms don’t burst out of their sockets”.

I gave that some thought.  “I wonder what Iain Duncan Smith thinks about folk like Mr S”, I said.

“Hell, I bet he stays up all night long worrying about those motherfuckers”, Bill said, draining his pint.  “I bet their plight just breaks his heart”.

“Iain Duncan Smith has a heart?”

“I fucking hope so, or there’ll be nothing for the vampire hunters to drive a wooden stake through…   Same again?”

I finished my pint.  “Of course,” I said.

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About the author
Flying Rodent is a regular contributor and blogs more often at: Between the Hammer and the Anvil. He is also on Twitter.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Fight the cuts

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Reader comments


1. the a&e charge nurse

If only Mr S had access to the clever lawyers dealing with Thames water
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jun/10/thames-water-no-corporation-tax

Lets quote Iain Banks “The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others” – not that any of this will change the mind of the other Iain when it comes to scroungers.

By the way did Smithy fulfil his pledge to live on £53?
Can’t remember if he said he could do it for a week or for a year.

I dispair at the direction this country is going in, I really do. We are becoming a hearless, compassionateless, soulless nation.

Doesn’t a fraud conviction require a mens rea? AFAIK it isn’t a strict-liability offence…

4. Planeshift

DWP is the most incompetant and vindictive government department of all time, and should be shut down forthwith.

I for one would enjoy the irony of the little hitlers that comprise most of the staff having to go through the same experience they have inflicted upon so many others.

5. the a&e charge nurse

It gets better – ‘You’ll lose your benefits for up to 3 years if you’re convicted of benefit fraud’.
So, little chance of finding a job, and withdrawal of benefit for 3 years potentially.
https://www.gov.uk/benefit-fraud

Could IDS live without a job or benefits for 3 years?
Of course he could, Betsy (aka Mrs IDS) is stinking rich live.
The Smiths live in a £2 million, 16th-century Tudor farmhouse set in three acres with a tennis court, swimming pool and orchards and is part of the ancestral estate owned by the in-laws, Lord and Lady Cottesloe.

In some respects they are the ideal sort of privileged family to oversee the intimidation of those down on their luck.

6. Shatterface

Lets quote Iain Banks…

Banks’s Walking on Glass features a hilarious interview at what was the the DSS.

RIP

7. Shatterface

I for one would enjoy the irony of the little hitlers that comprise most of the staff having to go through the same experience they have inflicted upon so many others.

And next time they’re out on strike they’ll be everyone’s heroes again.

Still, most of them claim tax credits so they’ll be too busy sanctioning each other soon to get up to any real mischief.

8. Churm Rincewind

This is a very sad story. However, it’s hard to see how there could have been any other outcome – the post omits to mention whether Mr S pleaded guilty or not, or what the actual sentence was.

But I do think it’s ridiculous to suggest that the Scottish legal system is a mere pawn in the hands of the Westminster Government.

If only Mr S had been the ‘charismatic’/’clownish’ leader of a group of religious extremists who regularly threaten murder and have recently had a success in that vein in Woolwich. Or a father of six with a brief conviction for stabbing a coule of women nearly fifty times, plus numerous other instances of violent and threatening behaviour. He would have found the DWP only too happy to help in any way.

This is sadly another case of public ‘servants’ shitting on decent ‘little people’ while they cringe and roll over for thugs and parasites.

10. northern skies

There may have been some increase in fraud actions, but the real current issue is an increase in JSA sanctions, alongside changes in the rules to allow harsher penalties. See http://dpac.uk.net/2013/06/jsa-benefit-sanctions-sky-rocket-under-coalition/

The standard of decision-making in fraud prosections is subject to the criminal courts (assuming you have a competent lawyer, which it seems Mr S did not); whereas a decision to sanction JSA is hardly ever challenged or tested. Sanction decisions are driven far more by politcal need from above, than by claimant misbehaviour.

11. the a&e charge nurse

[6] Then ‘Walking on Glass’ will be sought when I’m next in the book shop.
The last LC literary recommendation, ‘Dial M for Murdoch’ turned out to be an absolute cracker – that system was corrupt as well.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/25/dial-m-for-murdoch-review

12. Shatterface

There may have been some increase in fraud actions, but the real current issue is an increase in JSA sanctions, alongside changes in the rules to allow harsher penalties</i

Precisely: it's sanctions that are sending thousands of desperate people to the foodbanks and loan sharks.

[6] Then ‘Walking on Glass’ will be sought when I’m next in the book shop

If you have a dark imagination then Banks may be right up your street. Think Kafka, Bulgakov and Alasdair Gray.


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