End ‘demonisation’ of benefit claimants, Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah demands

Benefit claimants are treated as “second class citizens” by Government officials, an MP is to claim.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah will call for an end to the “demonisation” of claimants, as she leads a Commons debate.

> Well, its nice to see that you’ve caught up, Chi, but this really isn’t anything new you know ?  Still, general election looming and all that…

She will warn claimants are being mistreated by the Department for Work and Pensions, for example by having benefits stopped for no reason – and this can have a devastating effect on their physical and mental health.

And she will recall that she was largely bought up in a single-parent family in Newcastle which depended on benefits.

It follows claims that claimants are being “sanctioned” by Department staff, which means their benefits are stopped, without good reason.

> “Claims” ?  Like there might be some doubt about it ?

Ms Onwurah will highlight the case of an IT worker who lost his job and applied “for every possible vacancy” but was sanctioned by the Jobcentre because his work search record was judged inadequate in the week his father died.

Speaking in advance of the debate, she said:

“Benefits claimants are by definition going through a tough time; they may have lost a job, have an illness or disability or are in low-paid or part time work, or they are caring for young children or relatives, making it harder to work.

“They need our support, our care, concern for and understanding of the challenges they face.”

Jobcentres and the HMRC offices that administer tax credits, are “vital public services that British citizens pay for with their taxes” and people who use them have a right to expect fair and respectful treatment, she said.

Ms Onwurah will point out that the number of people on benefits who abuse the system is a very small proportion, as estimates show that only 0.7% of welfare spending is lost to fraud in comparison with 1.3% lost to overpayment because of Department for Work and Pensions mistakes.

And she will ask why there is not more focus on catching tax evaders – when there are adverts on buses urging: “Think you know a Newcastle upon Tyne Benefits Cheat? Report them anonymously.”

Recalling her own childhood, the MP said:

“It was very hard for my mother who was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and also suffered breast cancer, not only because of our poverty but also because of her shame at taking hand outs.

“I am very glad she did not have to face the sort of vilification and abuse experienced now, abuse caused in part by a sustained campaign from some politicians on the right.

> Although lets not forget New Labour didn’t have such a good record either, and in some respects did the groundwork for the coalition’s excesses.

“Contrary to what many of them would imagine, I was brought up with a strong work ethic, and also to believe that the state would provide a robust safety net for those that needed it.”

> Now – what we really need to know is  what will Labour do to rectify the situation should they win the general election ?  Anything ? Nothing ?

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  06 Jan 2015

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