Over 56,000 people sign petition demanding Iain Duncan Smith resigns over fake quotes

The petition has surged in the last week

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Indy Politics

Over 56,000 people have signed a petition calling on Iain Duncan Smith to resign after his department fabricated quotes to promote its benefit sanctions regime.

The DWP admitted last week that it made up positive comments from supposed “benefit claimants” for a leaflet branded “propaganda” by campaigners.

The petition, started less than a week ago, accuses Mr Duncan Smith of "lying" to the British public over the use of the "fantasy" case studies.

The revelation was controversial because the sanctions system has been criticised for causing extreme hardship and being operated in an unfair and arbitrary way. The leaflet contained no suggestion that the stories were not real.

Groups ranging from the charity Mencap to Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, to the Chartered Institute for Public Relations lined up to condemn the Department.

The leaflet shows a claimant pleased with the outcome of their sanction

People backing the petition argue that the sanctions regime is, far from the picture painted by the invented quotes, “driving people to suicide”.

“People are resorting to stealing food in order to not starve. Sanctions do not encourage people to get jobs,” the petition reads.

“Sanctions are known to be given to people for extremely minor reasons such as being five minutes late for an appointment.

“If someone has a heart-attack or has to attend a family members' funeral and misses an appointment - they could be sanctioned and lose their benefits.”

The authors of the charter call on Mr Duncan Smith to resign, branding him “ultimately responsible for the actions of those in his department”.

But Mr Duncan Smith today appeared on television to dismiss calls to resign, saying he had “at no stage” seen the leaflet.

“This is the sort of stuff that goes on in the operations department the whole time. Of course they got that one wrong, but there are lots and lots of things that they do every day,” he told Sky News.

“What was essentially meant to be an example of advice … ended up going out as a quote – which was quite peculiar and quite wrong.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman told the Independent at the time of the revelations:

“The case studies were used for illustrative purposes to help people understand how the benefit system works. They’re based on conversations our staff have had with claimants. They have now been removed to avoid confusion.”