This is really appalling. Mike has put up a piece about an article in the Canary about the way a woman was left an abusive message on her answerphone by a member of the DWP, after she contacted them to see what benefits were available. The woman, Cecilia Garcia, has dual Mexican-British citizenship, and had worked in finance. All three of her children were born in Britain. However, her marriage had broken up and she was having trouble paying the rent, so she contacted her local Jobcentre Plus office in Bromley.
Her call was answered by Ann Goode, who left her abusive message on the answerphone because she had not realised that she hadn’t rung off after leaving her intended reply to Garcia. She was then heard discussing the case with a colleague, in which she said that she believed Garcia was probably claiming benefits up to £1,000 a month, commented that neither of Mrs Garcia’s names were English, and stated that she resented having on her caseload a ‘scrounging b*****d who’s popping out kids like pigs’.
Mike comments that at a time when our politicians are under heavy scrutiny and strongly criticised for prejudice against individuals because of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation or their religion, this shows that DWP officials are getting away with it. He also makes the point that this is not the first time it’s happened, and warns people to watch how May’s government will sweep this under the carpet.
I’m really not surprised by this incident. Unfortunately, hostility and prejudice towards claimants is now built into the system. Blair’s New Labour was convinced that a vast proportion of disabled people claiming benefits or the long term sick were malingerers, and showed the same attitude as the Tories to cutting benefits in order to force people back into work. Thatcher was very keen on the old Victorian idea of ‘less eligibility’ – making benefits so hard and unpleasant that it would deter people from seeking help, and more or less said so in so many words. As a result, there is a harsh indifference and indeed even hostility to claimants within the DWP. And the bile and recriminations aren’t just confined to them. Whistleblowers have also said that because of poor pay and conditions, and the threat of unemployment as DWP bosses like Iain Duncan Smith consider further ways of reducing staff, there is an atmosphere of backbiting and treachery amongst the department’s civil servants.
The Department desperately needs reforming, as at the moment it is very definitely not ‘fit for purpose’. But don’t expect this from Theresa May’s new, so-called ‘caring’ Tory administration. She is just going to carry on Cameron’s – and Thatcher’s policies, which massively reward the rich and impoverish the rest of us.
Tags: 'less eligibility', Ann Goode, Bromley, Cecilia Garcia, Conservatives, DWP, Homophobia, Ian Duncan Smith, Jobcentre Plus, Margaret Thatcher, Prejudice, racism, Religion, Sexism, The Canary, Theresa May, Vox Political