Government officials have admitted that claimant’s comments used in an official benefit sanctions information leaflet were “for illustrative purposes only”.
The revelation comes in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Welfare Weekly, in which we questioned whether the comments used in the leaflet were of a genuine or fake nature.
Welfare Weekly asked the DWP to provide any evidence or information to prove that the comments used in the publication were from “genuine” claimants.
Within days of submitting our request to the DWP, the original information leaflet suddenly disappeared from the government’s website without explanation.
However, we had already downloaded a copy of the leaflet (pdf) in anticipation of the response to our FOI request.
That leaflet included comments from two sickness benefit claimants who had supposedly been affected by benefit sanctions, Zac and Sarah.
According to the leaflet, Zac had said: “I let my work coach know in advance that I couldn’t go to our meeting because I had a hospital appointment.
“I had a good reason for not going to the meeting and proof of the appointment. My benefit payment hasn’t changed and we booked another meeting I could get to.”
While Susan had allegedly said: “I didn’t think a CV would help me but my work coach told me that all employers need one. I didn’t have a good reason for not doing it and I was told I’d lose some of my payment. I decided to complete the CV and told my work coach.
“I got a letter to say my benefit would go down for two weeks. I was told it was longer than a week because I missed a meeting with my work coach back in March.
“My benefit is back to normal now and I’m really pleased with how my CV looks. It’s going to help me when I’m ready to go back to work.”
However, Welfare Weekly can reveal that neither of these comments came from genuine Employment and Support Allowance claimants.
Both comment’s were completely made up and included to “help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions”, according to the DWP.
The response to our Freedom of Information request reads:
“The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants.
“The stories are for illustrative purposes only.
“We want to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help us achieve this.
“We have temporarily changed the pictures to silhouettes and added a note to make it more clear that these are illustrative examples only.
“We will test both versions of the factsheet with claimants and external stakeholders to further improve it in the future. This will include working with external organisations.”