A Statement on events witnessed by me at Salford Jobcentre Plus and Rochdale Jobcentre Plus between 2011 and 2013
1.0 Managers at both district level and in the local office created a culture which encouraged staff to view the customer (benefit claimant) as an obstacle to performance. The Jobcentre operations became wholly performance led. Sanctions of customers were encouraged by managers daily, with staff being told to look at every engagement with the customer as an opportunity to take sanction action. I was personally told by a manager to “agitate” and “Inconvenience” customers in order to get them to leave the register. The staff performance management system was used inappropriately in order to increase submissions to the Decision Maker and therefore to increase sanctions on customers. Senior HR managers condoned this behaviour by refusing to issue guidelines on appropriate time limits on performance, which encouraged managers to look at short-term targets above staff development, fairness to customers and appropriate behaviour as set out in the departments own values.
2.0 Managers at Salford Jobcentre, created an environment where every action with a customer could lead to loss of benefits. They made the decision to mandate customers to all job programmes regardless of their suitability. They did this by applying a benefit direction on the customer to make them attend. The purpose was to increase the opportunity to sanction a customer, should they fail any part of the direction. My line manager reporting back from the district managers meeting stated that the message from the District Manager with regard to customers was –“let’s set them up from day 1”. Managers’ actions and words didn’t reflect the values and behaviours set down by department, they set the wrong examples and acted without any accountability.
2.1 There was an unhealthy and unprofessional working environment for staff. Managers created and encouraged a confrontational approach towards the customer and the office manager at Salford set up “DMA hit squads” to target customers for sanction action. Customers dealt with by these squads had their job search scrutinised at an almost forensic level in order to get a suspension of benefit. The Office manager would call the customer record of a job applications a “micky Mouse” job search and customers would often break down and cry or argue because they felt that they were being treated unfairly...