DWP misappropriates yet another institution’s material to abuse jobseekers

Please share widely. The DWP has been ‘found out’ in all kinds of unethical and possibly criminal behaviour, and the extent of its abuses and even theft needs to be exposed.

The story so far (please skip down to the new information if you already know the background!):

I’ve written over the last week or so about the fake psychometric ‘test’ that the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Jobcentre Plus (JCP) centres are forcing jobseekers to take by threatening them with sanction (the removal of their benefits) if they don’t.

As I (and then subsequently various mainstream newspapers) pointed out, this fake ‘test’ was  meaningless – it gave exactly the same results for extreme opposite answers, and for a neutral answer all the way through its 48 questions. As Downing Street’s Behavioural Insights Team, or ‘nudge unit’, inadvertently made clear, the accuracy of the ‘personality profile’ was irrelevant – the test was about psychological manipulation of jobseekers.

Threatening people with the immediate loss of their income for a minimum of 4 weeks for failing to take a meaningless test amounted to a form of psychological torture apparently aimed at manipulating unemployment benefit claimants into a position where they would ‘fail to comply’ and could be sanctioned, enhancing ‘off-flow’ – the movement of people off the list of claimants, regardless of whether they had a job or other source of income.

Unethical and cruel at best, and quite possibly illegal – but this wasn’t the end of the DWP’s misdeeds. As I and then the Guardian revealed, the DWP was using the 48 questions that had supposedly been ‘scientifically shown to find people’s strengths’ – but not only was the DWP using the test without permission, but the owners of the test had expressly refused permission for the DWP to use the selected questions because they were ‘scientifically invalid’.

So ‘scientifically shown’ is just one of the many lies the DWP has told around this ‘test’ – including that nobody would lose their benefits for not taking the test:


People are regularly committing suicide in fear of losing their benefits, and the DWP is threatening removal of benefits for not taking a bogus test – and then denying it.

The new info:

The NCFE ‘enterprise skills’ course

Unfortunately, we’re still far from the end of the DWP’s mistreatment of jobseekers – or their unscrupulous abuse of other people’s materials.

As I showed yesterday, the DWP is forcing barely literate people to attend an ‘enterprise skills’ course designed to move them off the claimant count and into self-employment – even though they have none of the skills or experience needed to make a living in self-employment.

As part of the course’s activities, ‘Maggie’, the young single mother who was ordered by her JCP advisor to attend the Enterprise Skills course, had to define the word ‘enterprise’ – a word many with good literacy skills might struggle to define adequately.

She also had to complete a self-assessment of her ‘enterprise skills’ and personal characteristics as part of the course’s activities. Here is a sample of her completed form:


This course was devised by NCFE (the letters apparently no longer stand for anything), an educational ‘Awarding Organisation’. According to an NCFE press spokesperson, the qualification consists of a ’50-hour training course designed to be delivered alongside an academic curriculum‘.

The NCFE spokesperson also confirmed that the course is intended for people with good basic literacy skills:

People should not be put on the course without good basic literacy. It is the responsibility of the DWP to ensure that Jobcentre Plus to assess candidates for their suitability before mandating them to attend, as outlined in our Qualification Specification document.

Pages 3-4 of this document give clear and unmistakable instructions on who should and should not be put on the course:

Centres are responsible for ensuring that these qualifications are appropriate for the age and ability of learners. They need to make sure that learners can fulfil the requirements of the assessment criteria and comply with the relevant literacy, numeracy and health and safety aspects of these qualifications.

Now go back and re-read ‘Maggie’s attempt to complete the form and decide whether the DWP has fulfilled its obligations – or whether it has completely disregarded the instructions of the course’s owners in order to force an already-harried young woman, already in fear of losing her benefits, to perform yet another stressful and wholly unsuitable task.

This abuse of NCFE‘s clear instructions about how its course material is to be used may not amount to outright theft – but it’s certainly the equivalent of borrowing someone’s tools and breaking them in the course of committing assault.

If, like me, you’re a close follower of what the DWP gets up to, it will come as no surprise that the DWP is wantonly heaping stress and misery onto people ill-equipped to deal with it. The government has justified its stance by demonising benefit claimants (working or not) as ‘skivers’ and ‘scroungers’.

But this government – and the DWP foremost – never seems to know when to stop. Theft of intellectual property and abuse of others’ materials by flouting clear instructions about how they must be used seem to be routine for the DWP and for the so-called ‘nudge unit’ behind the pointless tasks it is imposing under threat of sanction.

Abusing the unemployed seems to be par for the course for the Tories. But a government department and a unit endorsed by David Cameron as well as by the DWP appear to feel they are entitled to behave like a gang of feral cowboys that not only terrorise the helpless but steal and abuse what belongs to others as well.


  1. I find your posts, both interesting and disturbing and thank you taking the time to educate us. I am wondering however if Today’s post would gain from being edited. The first part has been well read by many and the whole blog risks being overlooked by many because of it. I almost fell into that trap myself. If the top section which covers previous posts, was cut down to a couple of sentences the important information would be easily visible and grab the readers attention, It is something I am convinced many need to read, so would appreciate your comments. Regards. Steve

    Date: Tue, 7 May 2013 12:40:12 +0000 To: steve_mackie@hotmail.com

    1. It’s an absolutely valid point, and one I always have in mind. However, I’m also cognisant of the fact that many people reading any given blog will not have read the preceding posts, and will therefore need some kind of ‘Previously on the SKWAWKBOX’ type intro for them to understand the context. I’m sure I don’t always get the balance right, though – and with the many facets of this story the ‘catch-up’ intro is as big as the new info. I’ll try extra hard to keep it brief!

  2. Still, good job the LibDems are keeping the Tories in check eh? Otherwise, who knows what the little scamps might try next.

  3. Hi! there just wondering if it would be worthwhile contacting Panorama to ask if they would do an investigation/expose into ATOS & DWP regarding their assessments & the deaths that have been attributed to them?

  4. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    The Skwawkbox expose of DWP dirty-dealing continues with an examination of an ‘enterprise skills’ course which requires those taking it to have reached a reasonable standard of literacy and numeracy. Unfortunately, the Department for Work and Pensions is determinedly shovelling anybody it can onto the course, regardless of their ability, in what it clearly a plan to bully people who are more vulnerable than most off the books. Despicable.
    I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this government department’s dirty tricks yet. If we ever get a proper government in again, the whole organisation might have to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. If so, the cost should be met by the individuals and organisations who are currently making such a mess of it (in my opinion).

  5. It is ironic and deeply insulting that the organisation now known only as NCFE should be mired in a controversy involving the misuse of educational material in this way. This organisation’s origins hail back to those great educational institutions of the working classes, the Mechanics Institutes.
    Swawkbox is doing a good job of bringing the DWP’s murky truth to light – sadly it is every bit as ugly as some of us anticipated it would be – enforced mass misery.

  6. Besides forcing people to attend courses for which they are academically unsuited, the DWP continually forces others to complete Basic Skills Assessment tests, regardless of what academic qualifications they may already possess. Despite having seven ‘O’ – Levels, two Diplomas, and a Degree, I have been forced time and time again to complete a Maths and English test! Why?

    1. This should not happen. It is also a waste of the tax payers money.

      When you say forced, do you mean you were issued with a Jobseekers’s Direction?

      1. Whenever I have questioned such requests I have simply been told that I must do it, I have to do it, my Benefits may be stopped if I don’t. I have repeatedly inquired as to why such “training” establishments (New Deal, A4e, Skills For Work, etc.) do not accept nationally recognized qualifications, but have never had a satisfactory response. The irony is, that upon successfully completing their silly little tests, I have then been presented with a Mickey Mouse certificate to say I have passed, or that I am “job ready”, whatever that means!

    2. You may like to take this report into the Jobcentre next time.


      To save the tax payer money the adviser can simply carry out
      the Fast Track assessment tool, which is a short, paper-based test of the claimant’s reading, writing and numeracy skills.

      However, in your case it would be entirely unnecessary.

      Claimants’ previous education and qualifications history was usually recorded at Stage 1 of the JRFND (the new claims stage), and claimants were asked directly about the highest qualifications
      they had achieved. If a record was already held on LMS for people who had claimed before, these details were checked to ensure they were still accurate. Advisers reported that they tended to regard qualifications, such as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) or higher-level qualifications, as a proxy for adequate basic skills, which would then require no further checking (although, in reality, the possession of formal qualifications does not necessarily mean there are no basic skills needs).

      During the research, very limited use of screening tools was observed across all districts: the use of the Fast Track assessment tool was observed on two occasions and the CAT only once. This low level
      of usage was confirmed in interviews with advisers, with some reporting that they did not use the tools at all or were not familiar with them.

  7. A friend of mine on JSA was told he should do a basic maths course even though he has Accountancy qualifications he quite rightly refused. he was not sanctioned on this occasion but wonders what they will try next.

    1. Voted (no, obviously) but more than twice as many of those interested enough to vote saying yes, they somehow think they are perfectly fair ….

  8. I was in JCP yesterday and told to update my job seekers agreement, I was told I would have to extend the hours I was prepared to work as my son had now reached 14 and could be left home alone while I worked full-time, I queried this as I was not prepared to allow my disabled son at home alone and was advised that it was ok as the law states that a child can be left alone once they reached 14! I was told if I did not believe her i could phone the police – I did, and the officer I spoke to said there was no law governing leaving kids on their own but if I did leave him and something happened to him, I would be charged with neglect!
    I was also told to up the amount of activities I had to do each week (9 in total) but was told I only needed to do 6 of these activities! However upon inspecting my jsa I would that if I did not do all nine then I would be sanctioned!
    I called the manager and complained, they are using dirty tactics to sanction people and putting parents and kids at risk by saying they know the law.
    Thank goodness I am an astute person but feel for those who are not and might believe all the crap that comes out of these ‘advisors’ mouths!!!!!

    1. This is is a very important question.

      Here is the guidance JCP guidance.

      Claimants must be available to work a minimum of 40 hours a week and be prepared to take any job they are realistically capable of doing, unless their personal circumstances make these requirements unreasonable.
      A restriction on availability or types of work may be due to:
       religious or other beliefs;

      a physical or mental condition;
       caring for a child or other caring responsibilities;
       being a Lone Parent with care of a child aged 12 or under;
       engagement in treatment for drug and/or alcohol dependency;

      the level of pay a claimant is willing to accept; or

      other reasonable restrictions

    2. This may help you and others:



      A Jobseeker’s Agreement must be consensual and not imposed.

      The Adviser must consider your individual circumstances and capability via a diagnostic process.

      The same applies for a Jobseeker Direction.

      You can ask for your Jobseeker Agreement to be reviewed at any time.

      Many people may be struggling or cannot afford to take the steps that have been set and will be tempted to fabricate the evidence they provide to the Jobcentre every fortnight, believing that they must comply.

      This is not the case. Your Jobseeker agreement has to be reasonable for YOUR circumstances!

  9. Any one know anything about this. Questionnaire GLED MF47
    Some questions on it that look like it is designed to get people sanctioned.
    Such as how many hours do you spend looking for work every day ?
    The looking for work is not time as consuming it is the filling out of application forms and researching the job descriptions that are time consuming and this question seems to be very cunning and tick boxy to say the least.
    This Question sheet comes as part of as part of a compliance/conditionality interview with an off flow advisor.. I can’t get any info about this on the web.
    The job seekers agreement does not state how many hours a person must spend looking for work but does state amounts of job seeking related activity must be carried out.
    Also with the traveling times being now 90 mins each way for a job, some people in care work 12 hr shifts and MUST have 11 hours rest. This DWP mandate is running a-mock and a lot of people are going to suffer because of this.
    The job seekers allowance entitlements are going the way of ESA assessments and very questionable methods of screening people..

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