Richmondshire tops national table for benefits sanctions

The Government has been accused of cruelty and running a ‘postcode lottery for benefits‘ after it emerged a rural district had by far the highest proportion nationally of Jobseekers Allowance claimants being sanctioned.

A report by homelessness charity Crisis said 15.4 per cent of jobseekers in Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, had been sanctioned, making claimants there three times more likely to have their benefits stopped than in its southern Yorkshire Dales neighbour Craven.

It found just 6.2 per cent of claimants in Richmondshire’s northern neighbour Durham had been sanctioned, while 10.9 per cent of claimants in Hambleton had had their benefits stopped, giving that area the tenth highest rate of sanctions in the country.

Crisis said evidence was mounting of “a punitive and deeply flawed regime”.

In 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) introduced sanctions of between one week and three years if a claimant fails to comply with jobseeking requirements, such as attending interviews or undertaking work-related activity.

 The severity of the regime has attracted criticism, with some foodbank workers claiming it has created an upsurge in people needing emergency hand-outs, while the Government has moved to deny that Jobcentre staff are given sanction quotas.

Senior pastor Ben Dowding, of the Store House foodbank, in Richmond, said he was surprised the area had topped the national sanctions table and that staff at the town’s Jobcentre – the only Jobcentre in the district – had often demonstrated compassion rather than being strict on claimants.

> Although presumably not so compassionate that they don’t keep sending his foodbank customers.

He said:

“Statistics only tell one side of the story, but having worked with the Jobcentre staff, they have always proved to be very caring individuals.”

Councillor John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, said he believed the area’s high sanction rate reflected jobseekers’ problems reaching the Jobcentre or work, adding that it took claimants in Hawes five hours of travelling and waiting to sign on in Richmond and return home.

 He added: “Most civil service departments do not recognise rurality as an issue.”

A DWP spokesman said Jobcentre staff took claimants’ personal circumstances into account and said there could be a number of factors that had led to Richmondshire having the highest proportion of sanctions.

He said: “Sanctions are only used as a last resort for the tiny minority who refuse to take up the support which is on offer.”

> As ever, the only people not asked for their opinion appear to be the unemployed, especially those who have been sanctioned. However, the original story received this comment:

When claimants apply for jobs it goes on a jobsite how many . My daughter applied for 17 one day but only 2 registered she took a picture of the jobs she had applied.

The next signing on Richmond said you only applied for 2 jobs – she said no look at this picture proving I applied for 17. So the system was not working correct but guess what sanctioned.

The staff at Richmond must be on good bonuses.

Source –  Northern Echo,  11 Mar 2015

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