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Thursday, March 28, 2013 

Sophistry Thursday.

At times, even a hardened, dead-eyed cynic like me is utterly amazed at the sheer sophistry deployed by both ministers and senior civil servants.  Both Iain Duncan Smith and Mark Hoban have repeatedly denied that Jobcentres have been set targets, while last week head of the Jobcentre Neil Couling and the Department for Work and Pensions permanent secretary Robert Devereaux both denied strenuously that league tables were used to pressure staff into sanctioning more claimants.  They did collect data on the numbers sanctioned, but it most certainly wasn't being used in such a way as was being alleged.

A week later, and leaked to the Graun is the DWP "scorecard" for January, which looks strangely like a league table, and measures whether the number of "adverse decisions" for each scheme and benefit has either gone up or down month on month.  Quite clearly this tallying of data couldn't possibly be used in the way in which numerous staff have insisted it has been; it's merely, as Couling explained, there to ensure that any "anomalies" in the number of referrals are quickly picked up, or as Devereaux suggested, collected for use in response to parliamentary questions. 

It doesn't pick out individual Jobcentres, it's true, as the email from the manager of the Walthamstow suggested when she said they were 95th in the league table, which more than implies there is a further table that drills down further into the data.  All the more reason why Labour should keep pushing for a full inquiry into the sanctioning regime, which might just finally get to the bottom of who's lying.  Although frankly, you suspect they all are.

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