Stockton Borough Council brands benefit sanctions as “cynical” and call on Government for urgent review

 

An impassioned debate over claims that strict sanctions on benefits claimants are causing severe poverty ended with Stockton Borough Council passing a motion criticising Government policy.

The motion called for a review of the Department for Work and Pensions‘ (DWP) sanctions where benefits claimants, including those on Job Seekers Allowance, who miss an appointment or is late can be left without any money at all for five to six weeks.

Several councillors speaking at the authority’s full council meeting said they had examples of where the policy was being used “unfairly” while deputy leader Jim Beall branded it as a “deliberate, cynical measure” to alter the unemployment statistics.

However Conservative councillor Andrew Stephenson argued against the motion saying the sanctions helped people back to work.

The motion concluded:

“The Council resolves to write to our MPs requesting that they raise this deplorable situation with the responsible Minister urging an immediate review of national policy and guidance on sanctioning.”

Council leader Bob Cook told of a case where a young man got a letter informing him of a morning appointment but didn’t receive it until the afternoon and lost his benefit.

 Cllr Michael Clark said he knew of a case where a claimant lost benefit for attending the funeral of a grandparent.

Meanwhile Cllr Norma Stephenson said she knew of 19 families on the Hardwick estate who had been sanctioned while Cllr Barry Woodhouse cited the case of a Billingham resident who lost her disability benefit for having zero points, only for a review to say she had 33 points.

Cllr Eileen Johnson said she had a friend working for the DWP who told her staff had been in tears “because they can’t bear what they are doing.”

> But they carry on doing it nevertheless…

Cllr Norma Wilburn said she had heard a national story on the radio about an amputee who had lost his benefit because he couldn’t answer the phone. She said: “This seems like a coordinated attack on the vulnerable. This is evil.”

Cllr Mark Chatburn, Ukip, said the policy was “deliberate” and “the epitome of nasty.

> This from the representive of a party who’s members have called for the unemployed to be denied the vote and banned from owning cars.

 But Conservative councillor Andrew Stephenson pointed out that people in work who didn’t turn up or were late could get sacked. He said: “The state now looks to get people off benefits and back into work. There are 50,000 people who have recently left the unemployment register.”
> No, The state now looks to get people off benefits  by any means, and bugger the consequences.

The motion was passed and Stockton’s two MPs, Alex Cunningham, Labour, and James Wharton, Conservative, will be contacted by the council.

Source –  Northern Echo,  22 Jan 2015

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4 comments

  1. Trevor

    Staff “can’t bear what they are doing”. Well don’t do it then! Simple. Judging by the number of strikes at jobcentres, they have no problem withdrawing their labour when it comes to protecting their pay, conditions and cushy pensions but won’t lift a finger to defend some of society’s most vulnerable people.

    And if the two jobcentre staff members I saw guffawing and chortling all the way home on a recent bus journey are typical of this bunch, I seriously doubt if they could give a monkey’s about the hardship and misery they’re inflicting on claimants.

  2. FibbingIsARationalResponse

    The Tory Councillor arguing that sanctions get people into work (and anyone else agreeing) might want to look at the evidence now being presented to parliament, which says fairly clearly that they are not http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/benefit-sanctions-policy-beyond-the-oakley-review/oral/17722.pdf
    Sanctions were a bloody stupid idea from the start. It’s just a surprise that it’s taken so long to realise it.

    • untynewear

      Seems like Labour have been saving it up for a General Election. Either that or they’re so out of touch that they’ve really only just discovered what’s been going on.

      Choose between massively cynical or massively out of touch… neither is very encouraging.

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