It was wrong of the Department for Work and Pensions to put out invented quotes in a leaflet about benefit sanctions, Iain Duncan Smith has said.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said officials were investigating how the glowing quotes about the benefit sanctions system had come to be on the departmental literature.
The Department admitted last week that the statements, detailing how the benefit sanctions regime had worked well for them, were not actually from real claimants.
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.
“What was essentially meant to be an example of advice … ended up going out as a quote – which was quite peculiar and quite wrong,” Mr Duncan Smith told Sky News.
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.
Mr Duncan Smith faced calls by opposition voices to quit over the revelation. A petition calling for him to lose his job has no reached 55,000 signatures.
The DWP secretary said he had at “no stage” seen the leaflet, adding:
“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.”
Honing on one call to quit, from Labour’s shadow DWP secretary Debbie Abrahams, he said: “You know, Debbie Abrahams just bangs on the whole time about that and the reality is every time she asks a question, nine times out of 10 she is wrong.”
In March this year Parliament's Work and Pensions Select Committee said there was evidence that sanctions were geared towards punishing people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman told the Independent at the time: “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”.
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