A group of churches and charities have called on the UK government to hold an urgent independent review into the benefit sanctions regime.
The group argue that the government has failed to heed the recommendation of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, who called for a full independent review of the benefit sanctions system earlier this year.
Dame Anne Begg, who chaired the Committee’s investigation, said:
“The implementation of the present sanction regime is controversial with the government claiming it is effective in helping people into work while many others say sanctions are causing real distress to families and are actually acting as a barrier to participation.”
She added: “If sanctions work as a deterrent, why are so many people still facing multiple sanctions?
“As there are so many questions about the effects on people who have been sanctioned, it is time the government implemented the recommendation of my Select Committee in the last Parliament to carry out a full, independent review of the whole sanction regime.
“Many believe that sanctions are being applied to the wrong people for often trivial reasons and are the cause of the increased use of foodbanks. Only an independent review can get to the truth of what is actually happening so that government policy can be based on evidence and not seen as merely punitive.”
In a 100 day period last year, 346,256 people who were on Jobseeker’s Allowance and 35,554 people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) were referred for sanctions. These resulted in 175,177 sanctions for Jobseekers and 11,129 for sick and disabled people claiming ESA.
92,558 were blamed on a bureaucratic error.
The call for a review is supported by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and by charities Church Action on Poverty, Gingerbread and Mind.
Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit could spark a ‘substantial increase’ in the number of Britain’s poorest people hammered by benefit sanctions, according to a leading think tank.
Punitive and spurious benefit sanctions have become common place over recent years, with the poorest in society being pushed ever-further into poverty rather than supported and helped into work.
More than 686,000 desperate people saw their benefits slashed or removed in 2014, including 37,000 sick and disabled people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Around 50% of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants referred for potential sanctioning in 2014 saw their benefit payments docked – an increase on previous years.
The ‘sanction rate’ in 2014 – the number of sanctions per month compared to the total number of claimants – stood at 5.1%, according to research from the New Policy Institute (NPI). This is a slight fall on 2013 levels, but still represents the second highest on record.
According to NPI’s research, a fall in the number of sanctions between 2013 and 2014 was mainly due to a reduction in JSA claimants and not because of ‘the system becoming less harsh’.
More than a quarter of sanctioned JSA claimants were disabled or lone parents, highlighting a lack of understanding and compassion for the ‘hardest to help’.
Sanctions against vulnerable people on employment and support allowance nearly doubled in Teesside in 2014.
A total of 865 sanctions were dished out across the 12,190 people in the ESA work related activity group in the Durham and Tees Valley jobcentre district last year.
This works out as 71 sanctions for every 1,000 claimants and is 81% up on the rate of 39.2 per 1,000 claimants in 2013.
This is a result of the number of people claiming that type of ESA decreasing at the same time as the number of sanctions being awarded dramatically increased.
In 2013, there were 515 sanctions issued and 13,130 claimants, according to the figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.
A mother from Fife was left without money for a month because she stopped to take her four-year-old daughter to the toilet, making her 10 minutes late for an appointment.
The heartless benefit sanction has left a struggling mother unable to pay heating bills and relying on a food bank to feed her children.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s revealed the mum’s plight but have kept her personal details private.
Barnardo’s Mark Ballard said: “She was without money for four weeks and was unable to purchase fuel cards for her gas and electricity meters or feed her children.
A number of other household bills went unpaid and she had to borrow money from friends and relatives to survive. This put her further into debt and damaged relationships with people who were previously supportive.”
The Scottish Welfare Committee are investigating the impact of Tory welfare reforms on women. MSPs will hear from 12…
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The number of employment and support allowance claimants being hit by sanctions has increased by 25% in a single month, DWP figures released today reveal. The vast majority of sanctions are for failure to take part in work-related activities, often because claimants are too ill to do so.
The latest statistics, which run up to the end of December 2014, show that ESA sanctions have increased from 2,626 in November 2014 to 3,274 in December. This is the highest number of sanctions since May 2014.
Just 16% of sanctions were for failure to attend an interview. The other 84% were for failure to participate in work-related activity.
Previously released statistics show that a disproportionate number of ESA claimants who are sanctioned have a mental health condition or learning disability
Very often the failure to participate stems from the fact that the claimant was not able to undertake the activity, for example because their health condition meant they could not travel or they could not cope with attending a group activity at an unfamiliar venue.
The reality is that the work programme has primarily become a means to stop ESA claimants’ benefits rather than a method of helping people move closer to employment. Benefits and Work expects to see the sanctions numbers continue to rise over the coming months and years.
Source – Benefits & Work, 13 May 2015
Every week we hear new stories of how the DWP workers try to trick people into receiving a sanction. We aren’t easily shocked anymore but if you haven’t heard of these tactics in your area please watch out for them. Here’s a few read and note. These aren’t unusual but it’s good to highlight them every now and then.
Only apply for jobs that you know you will be successful in getting on the universal job match website. Now we know that most of these jobs are fake jobs but yes this was a nugget of advice given yesterday. If you apply for jobs that you won’t get then we will sanction you. It’s a no win situation for the client and he got illegally sanctioned. Don’t fall for this one folks unless you possess some kind of clairvoyant ability then how would you know if you are going to…
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Please see below information from the TUC regarding the Reform Benefit Sanctions Regime petition.
The TUC is running a petition to ask the next Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to immediately reform the failing benefit sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used unfairly and arbitrarily – and it’s not just claimants saying this, but Jobcentre Plus staff. A Selection of Especially Stupid Benefit Sanctions
We currently have just over 8000 signatures but are hoping to get at least 12000. Could you please promote the petition through your networks to help make a strong case for reviewing the current sanction regime. https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/reform-the-cruel-sanctions-regime
Please sign and share as widely as possible
Reposted from Change.org
Few of us, I am sure, can forget the tragic and appalling death (by DWP sanctions) of David Clapson
His sister, Gill Thompson took to Change.org to petition David Cameron for an enquiry into the benefit sanctions that killed her brother.
Whilst dealing with her own grief, Gill amassed a huge 211,821 signatures for her petition, the result of which informed the DWP select committee enquiry (see link to report below)
It is interesting to note, that the Labour party have committed to accept all the recommendations in the DWP select Committee Inquiry report.
14 Apr 2015 — Dear All,
On 24th March the DWP Select Committee Inquiry’s findings and recommendations were officially published.
There are also attachments to the witnesses’ written evidence including David’s story.
It proves a rather hard read with page 56-62 listing the recommendations (26 in total).
I record below some of…
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> Coming soon – the Pope is a Catholic, study finds….
Austerity policies such as cuts to welfare and local services are driving the rapid spread of food banks in the UK, according to an academic study.
The Oxford University research shows emergency food aid is most concentrated in areas where there are high levels of joblessness and benefit sanctions.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition persistently refused to acknowledge a link between its economic and social security policies and the explosion in food banks.
But the Oxford study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows demand for food parcels is strongest where poverty is accompanied by restrictions on, and reductions in, social assistance.
“More food banks are opening in areas experiencing greater cuts in spending on local services and central welfare benefits and higher unemployment rates.”
The study, which uses data supplied by the UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, finds food banks operated in 20 UK council areas in 2009-10. By 2013-14 they existed in 251 areas.
At the same time, the rate of food aid distribution tripled between 2010 and 2013 from about 0.6 food parcels per 100 people to 2.2 per 100.
There were stark variations between local areas, from a low of less than 0.1 food parcels per 100 people in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to a high of eight parcels per 100 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
These in part reflected the fact that some areas had more or longer-established food banks, the study found.
Even taking this into account, higher rates of food parcel distribution were still “significantly associated” with welfare cuts and austerity measures.
In particular, the prevalence in an area of benefit sanctions – where unemployed claimants who do not meet jobcentre rules have their payments stopped for at least four weeks – was a strong indicator of food parcel use.
The study says:
“The rise in food bank use is … concentrated in communities where more people are experiencing benefit sanctions.
“Food parcel distribution is higher in areas where food banks are more common and better established, but our data also show that the local authorities with greater rates of sanctions and austerity are experiencing greater rates of people seeking emergency food assistance.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:
“The government spends £94bn a year on working-age benefits and provides a wide range of advice and assistance for anyone in need of additional support.
“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time with improvements being made year on year and the number of sanctions has actually gone down.”
The lead author of the study, Rachel Loopstra, said it was likely to have “underestimated the true burden of food insecurity in the UK” because food aid provision is patchy and data collection is relatively crude.
She called for further research to capture the full extent of food insecurity and food bank use in the UK. One of the last acts of the coalition was to reject a cross-party call for the government to collect robust data on food poverty.
The study is the latest in a string of separate reports linking welfare reform to food bank use, from poverty charities, churches, MPs, and food banks.
Source – The Guardian, 09 Apr 2015
When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) Jobcentres will have the powers to dictate how many hours a claimant should be working to remain eligible for what are now called Tax Credits and Housing Benefit. Those without children, who do not have a health condition, will be required to spend up to 35 hours a week either working or taking part in work related activity such as looking for additional work or even attending workfare. Failure to comply will result in a sanction.
The implications are chilling. Under the new rules part-time workers will have to attend a job interview with just 48 hours notice or their benefits will be stopped. This is likely to mean someone required to…
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