department hiring people to spy on claimants

  • Post last modified:April 4, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

If you ever wanted a job bootlicking for Tory big brother Britain, look no further, because the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has you covered. Champing at the bit to snoop into the DWP benefits of the most marginalised members of society?

Well, it has a role just for you – as per the government’s latest machinations to persecute disabled, chronically ill, poor, and vulnerable people across the UK. Naturally, these new fraud-finder general jobs are part of the department’s suite of new plans to “crack down” on so-called “benefit fraud”.

DWP’s “benefit fraud” fiction

On 3 April, journalist Rachel Charlton-Dailey broke the news that the DWP has posted job listings for up to 25 “covert surveillance officers”. As the Big Issue reported:

The job roles are, according to the advertisement on GOV.UK, part of the DWP’s response to tackling fraud within the welfare system.

The ad says: “The department utilises covert surveillance to gather evidence to prove/disprove offences” – although it is not clear what these offences are.

Of course, this wasn’t to tackle the multi-billions in dud covid PPE type of fraud. Instead, these jobs are to wrangle with the criminal masterminds that are, largely, sick and out-of-work people barely surviving on the lowest social security benefits in Northern Europe.

As the Canary’s Steve Topple has previously pointed out, “benefit fraud” is, of course “a right-wing construct not grounded in reality”. More specifically, he has highlighted that a significant proportion of the DWP’s fraud estimates are not in fact from actual claimants. Instead, Topple has detailed how:

much of the £8.3bn the DWP promotes as fraud (and that the media dutifully laps up) is just based on assumptions and guesswork.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good scapegoating? Moreover, Charlton-Dailey noted that:

This latest recruitment drive comes after the government has upped its commitment to benefit fraud with its Fraud Strategy, which was released last year. According to GOV.UK the plan “sets out bold new measures to fight fraud against the welfare state” and they say it will save the DWP £1.3bn.

So, let us get this straight. The government spaffed multiple billions of pounds up the wall for rich Tory donors, and this new slick surveillance could help save the DWP – wait for it – a grand sum of £1.3bn.

Hang up your ballet shoes, as according to the DWP’s latest hiring drive, your next job could be in benefit snooping (you just don’t know it yet.)

Sweeping new surveillance powers

Of course, the roles are part and parcel of the Tory government’s sweeping new surveillance plans for the DWP.

Specifically, it’s currently trying to ram through a series of new powers to enable the department to spy on the bank accounts of benefit claimants. It is doing so through the innocuously titled Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

So far, campaigners and media outlets have lambasted a litany of the DWP’s souped-up surveillance schemes for things like:

  • The use of AI to detect fraud (What could possibly go wrong? I’m old enough to remember when faulty AI wrecked the lives of 900 postmasters)
  • Posing a serious risk to disabled people who have set up bank accounts for social care
  • Threatening the dignity and privacy of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other disability benefits claimants

Over 40 organisations condemned the bill’s surveillance powers in March in an open letter to work and pensions secretary Mel Stride. In it, groups including Disability Rights UK and Big Brother Watch argued that:

There are approximately 22.6 million individuals in the welfare system, including those who are disabled, sick, caregivers, job seekers, and pensioners. They should not be treated like criminals by default

Meanwhile, a petition is calling on the DWP to ditch the new surveillance plans.

Scapegoated as “scroungers”

As the Guardian’s Frances Ryan pointed out, the surveillance roll-out is the inevitable end result of the government (and its corporate media lapdogs) painting benefit claimants as “scroungers” and a burden on the taxpayer:

Invariably, scapegoating is exactly the point. Ostensibly, the Tory government is shirking accountability for fomenting a devastating cost-of-living crisis. No changes there of course – it’s Tory writ large.

As Topple also recently reported for instance, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) accused the UK government of systematically violating disabled people’s human rights – and for the second time, no less. There too, the government of course denied responsibility.

But back in morally-bankrupt Tory Britain, the government’s putrid weaponisation of welfare benefits has had devastating consequences. The DWP has presided over tens of thousands of deaths, as claimants waited for benefits, or after the DWP told them they were fit to work. Repeated inquests into the deaths of benefit claimants have revealed the rot at the heart of its routinely punishing and deadly system.

So, it’s not hard to imagine what these new DWP benefit fraud-busting jobs will mean for the people claiming this social security. What’s more, finding new ways to deny people benefits – in this instance, by criminalising them – sits comfortably alongside the government’s plans to push people into work. Of course, this drive has particularly targeted sick and disabled claimants.

Naturally, the Tories want you to blame your neighbourhood “scrounger” for all social ills. After all, it has spent years peddling this pernicious rhetoric, demonising disabled, chronically ill, and vulnerable claimants to manufacture consent for stripping back the welfare state.

Spy on your DWP benefits-claiming neighbours

So, enter the era of “covert surveillance officers”. The Big Issue explained that the new roles:

are based in 20 locations across the country with salaries ranging from £29,500 to £33,979.

Moreover, it highlighted that:

The job’s description is very vague on detail as to what the job actually entails. It includes “leading in taking forward tasking requests”, sometimes leading “on the activities of the surveillance team” and “actively participating in surveillance operations”, with hours described as “unsociable”, starting early and ending late.

The ad does however state that hirees will be producing “evidential packages” which include obtaining and writing up witness statements to provide evidence of the activities witnessed. Successful applicants may be required to wear “covert audio equipment” and will also have to present the evidence obtained, which includes compiling and editing video and audio data.

In other words, for five figures, you can become a dutiful agent of the UK’s fascist, eugenicist state. But hey, be grateful for the opportunity, or the DWP might deny you social security.

Whilst the bigshot corporate bosses have the government eating out of the palm of their hand, millions in the UK can’t afford to eat at all.

As ever, in Tory UK, it’s blame your benefit “scrounger” neighbour, not the slimy rich elite that grease the wheels of this despicable government. Now, you can even spy on benefit claimants’ spending too – and get paid to do it.

Feature image via Hannah Sharland.

Source link