Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials admitted yesterday using fake quotes in a leaflet on sanctions, while campaigners pointed out that it proves their “contempt” for benefit claimants.
The document, meant to offer “advice” to those who could have their payments docked, carried photos of two people next to what purported to be their personal accounts of the sanctions regime.
But the DWP was forced by Welfare Weekly to confirm that “Sarah” and “Zac” did not actually exist and the images were stock photographs.
“Sarah” was quoted as expressing delight at having been made to write a CV and explained why she had had her payments stopped.
She misleadingly said: “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.”
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) spokeswoman Debbie Jolly told the Star: “The DWP’s contempt for disabled people goes on and on.
“Not content with fake stock photos and three versions of the same moralistic fantasy leaflet, they laughably try to tell us that sanctions are for our own good with fictitious examples.”
Commentators on Twitter got the #fakeDWPstories hashtag trending. One of the most popular was: “I lost 15 stone on the DWP sanction diet plan. Now I can look great on the beach because I lost my house too.”
The DWP has since switched the photos to silhouettes and added a note saying the words are “for illustrative purposes,” but has not ruled out using the previous version in future.
Acting shadow work and pensions secretary Stephen Timms said: “You couldn’t make it up — but it seems Iain Duncan Smith can.
“The only way he can find backers for his sanctions regime is by inventing them.
“Instead of fabricating quotes pretending the system is working, he should scrap unfair sanctions targets for jobcentre staff and do more to protect vulnerable people from facing benefit sanctions.”
Ms Jolly highlighted the tragic case of David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who starved to death and could not afford electricity to keep his insulin refrigerated.
He died with £3.44 in his bank account after his benefits were stopped due to having missed an appointment.