A Conservative MP has said stopping payments to benefit claimants is forcing people to food banks – contradicting a Government minister overseeing the crackdown.
Andrew Percy, who represents Brigg and Goole on Humberside, went on to criticise the “consistency” of the benefits sanctions regime and called for a review.
His comments in the House of Commons came minutes after Employment Minster Priti Patel argued there is “no robust evidence that directly links sanctions and food bank use”.
Benefit claimants can have their payments suspended or docked if they break the rules, but critics claim many of the breaches are trivial. The Work and Pensions Committee of MPs has twice called for an independent inquiry.
The Trussell Trust charity says a record one million packages were given out by food banks last year.
Mr Percy’s intervention followed the Labour frontbench and two SNP MPs berating the Government for fuelling the need for hand-outs of food parcels.
Please note: there are repeated references to suicide in the final section of this article, headed: “Is there anything else you would like to tell us about issues covered in this survey?“
A Benefits and Work survey has revealed an overwhelming distrust of the DWP, with the majority of respondents considering that the department:
- has negatively affected their own health
- treats claimants inhumanly
- causes claimants’ deaths
- covers up the poverty, suffering and deaths it causes
Benefits and Sanctions deaths survey
In the last Benefits and Work newsletter we published a link to a ‘Benefits sanctions and deaths’ survey.
Two things prompted us to create the survey:
- the preceding week Conservative business minister Nick Boles told charity volunteers that some benefits sanctions were ‘inhuman’ – then changed his mind.
- Channel 4’s Dispatches revealed that that more than 30 secret reviews carried out following the deaths of benefit claimants called for improvements by the DWP.
We received over 1,000 responses to our survey in just two days, with almost 50% of respondents also leaving detailed comments. We’ve published around 100 of those comments below – we apologise that we couldn’t publish them all.
The results below have been rounded to one decimal place, so do not always add up to exactly 100%.
The results for our first question “Do you think that the benefits system is ‘inhuman’ in the way it treats claimants?” were overwhelmingly critical of the DWP and its partners.
99% of respondents said that, at least sometimes, the benefits system is inhuman.
I don’t know 0.2%
A very strong majority of respondents, 88.7%, said that their health has suffered because of difficulties with the benefits system, with fewer than 10% saying that it hasn’t.
I don’t know 3.7%
A massive majority of respondents, 97.3% , consider that DWP sanctions, cuts and unfairness have been responsible for the deaths of claimants.
There is uncertainty about the numbers involved, but 82.5% believe it is in the hundreds or even thousands.
Yes, a small number 14.8%
Yes, probably hundreds 44.0%
Yes, probably thousands 38.5%
I don’t know 2.2%
A huge majority are also sure that the DWP is involved in a cover up about poverty, suffering and benefits-related deaths.
96% believe this to be the case, whilst fewer than 1% think the DWP is being open about these issues.
I don’t know 3.1%
Only half a percent of respondents think Labour will treat claimants most harshly if they are the largest party after the election?
On the other hand, 59.5% believe the Conservatives will be harshest. The bad news for Labour, however, is that no fewer than 40% consider that the two parties are as bad as each other.
Labour will be the harshest 0.5%
The Conservatives will be the harshest 59.5%
They are as bad as each other 40.00%
There was strong agreement that claimants lives may depend on who wins the election, with 82.5% thinking that this is the case and only 6.5% believing that they won’t.
I don’t know 11.0%
As in previous surveys, Benefits and Work readers say they will be turning out in big numbers to vote in May. No fewer than 87.7% say they will be voting, whilst just 5.1% are sure they won’t.
I don’t know 7.1%
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about issues covered in this survey?
Please note: there are repeated references to suicide in this section.
“My daughter, who is mother to 3 young children was sanctioned for being 5 minutes late to an interview. Now I am having to try and make my money work for 2 households.i personally am registered disabled and have trouble making my money cover all necessary bills as is but, cannot see my daughter and grandkids starve or freeze.”
“It is a disgrace for people who are seriously unwell to have to undergo the strain and stress of trying to fight for an benefit for which they are truly entitled. I had to go to a tribunal whilst undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Fortunately the judge and the doctor present were extremely sympathetic and my case was awarded.”
“I have been appalled by the sanctions that are being imposed on clients I work with. Frequently clients do not know they’ve been sanctioned until they don’t receive their benefit. They’ve received no letter & given no information on the right of appeal. No advice has been provided on hardship payments & we are regularly issuing food vouchers. I’ve had an increase in referrals from courts due to shoplifting offences. Clients have told me they are shoplifting to eat.”
“I had to fight for my husbands benefits when he was terminally ill as he was put in wrong category and it took 6 weeks of them loosing forms to award correct amount which was not backdated as should of been as they said because claim lost had to reapply.”
“I work in an environment where I regularly refer people to the local food-bank. But I can only refer up to 3 times. What happens after that? People have shared with me that they have thought about taking their own lives, one person has tried twice.”
“My grand daughter was sanctioned for not attending the jobcentre after having a stroke the week before she could not talk or move the dwp were informed but still sanctioned her for not turning up …… madness!!!”
“ I worry daily about money and mainly have a bowl cereal for dinner as its cheap, I can’t afford a social life im a carer for my adult daughter and im no longer able to work because of lack support for her and my chronic pain/anxiety/stress”
“You live in fear about a brown envelope dropping through the letter box even though you have you have been accepted for ESA you just do not know when a review will take place and thats is on top of waiting for the PIP assessment people whom are ill and disabled should not be forced to live in fear of the DWP”
“My sister was starving due to an unfair sanction because she had to have an operation and told the job centre she couldn’t attend an interview . She ended up losing 3 stone because she was to embarrassed to tell anybody . It’s disgusting that people are treated this way.”
“Only to say I’ve never felt more persecuted than I ever under this regime ( sorry government ). I can’t wait for polling day.”
“I am a welfare rights adviser. Have been since the seventies and if I did not see it with my own eyes, I would not believe how utterly inhuman the system has become. It is completely outrageous that each time there is a fresh report on sanctions the DWP trots out the same old lies that they only sanction a tiny minority and only as a last resort. It is also ridiculous that people who even the DWP accepts are not well enough to work are subjected to sanctions at all.”
“Yes I worked with two friends for over twenty years one served in the army. We worked 12 hour shift doing very physical work. Both fell ill in there late fifties. At face to face assessment both told fit for work. One had been told he had 12 months to live no cure, he died 10 months later. The other became really stressed waiting for his appeal and died before his appeal, heart problems. That’s two I know, good hard working blokes who didn’t deserve to be treated that way. Shame on the DWP. Ian Duncan Smith should be tried for murder.”
“i’m facing a 6 month sanction now for a general mix up over a phone interview with an advisor which was actually face to face, easy mistake when ive never had a phone interview before and the date i had as a next meet up i mistook for being the phone interview….i was wrong”
“I live in fear of a Tory victory which will allow them to further tighten the regime, they hate us. I do not think I will live to claim my old age pension if they have another 5 years.”
“I see propaganda on television everyday, masquerading as entertainment showing what statistics prove to be a minority of benefit claimants behaving very badly. Animals and criminals receive better treatment than law abiding citizens who through no fault of their own need welfare support. I believe strongly that this is an economic cleansing. The poor and ill are being stealthily culled.”
“I dread it when any brown envelope from the DWP arrives, even when it only says it is confirmation of eligibility to DLA. I know that one day it will be the dreaded PIP letter and that despite having a chronic medical condition (MS) I will be forced to manage without my benefit and car. The way the Tories are treating the disabled is inhumane – it will be workhouses next.”
“I’ve been sanctioned in the past and nobody except a local UKIP councillor gave a toss. He gave me some petrol money and arranged a foodbank delivery or I’d have had absolutely nothing at all and no help.”
“TERRIFIED at very strong prospect of losing out when my DLA Indefinite Award is assessed for PIP after October 2015. I will need to get Enhanced Daily Living in order to qualify for the Severe Disability extra element of Pension Credit which will go to fund my rent (together with PIP/DLA). My needs are such that I need DLA/PIP and the Pension Credit Severe Disability element on top of my Housing Benefit to pay my rent which is relatively high because of my health needs. I am 62, single and live alone. If I lose out, I will be among the suicide statistics. I do not exaggerate!!.”
“I have been waiting for 5 years to vote another party. Everyday I just wait for the postman to see if there is any letter from DWP. I did not chose to be ill or disabled and I worked most of my life and raising two disabled children. I do not know why they doing this to us.”
“I have been awaiting pip since Feb 2014 and the people at the DWP are doing their utmost to fail me. I have a chronic incurable disease with lots of different symptoms not one day have I felt well in the last two years. The so called welfare system would have left me homeless in pain if it wasn’t for my parents and their 1 bedroom bungalow. I would have gone of the planet by now. It seems that it’s almost the thinking that sick people should commit suicide to save cost. I lost my career as an Nhs nurse where I cared and treated people with dignity as I knew what it was like to be vulnerable now I have no faith in the human species at all.”
I was fortunate enough to be given full ESA, but I am still effected by sanctions. I am actually terrified that they will drop me into the Work group, despite my obvious difficulties, and I will be sanctioned. Every time one of their envelopes drops through my letterbox my mouth goes dry, I start to hyperventilate, and my heart condition (AF) flares up, and this could trigger a stroke. I weep with relief when I find out what the letter was actually about, but that day is a write off. I have been diagnosed with depression, where my conditions were purely physical previously, and I now frequently stay in bed all day, weeping. Sanctions have made me sicker, even though they have not been imposed upon me.”
“I have been hospitalised due to the strain I was under when dealing with dwp i was without benefit for 3 months ,when dwp lost my personal information twice. I was blatantly lied to on the phone on 4 occasions I now live in fear of the dwp,and am almost sick when a letter from them comes through the door”
“The DWP have intentionally created a culture of Fear, in order to get away with their inhumane policies. Living with Fear and Insecurity every day of your life is No Life. It is not the type of conditions which allow people to thrive in. It affects my health, my choices and my judgement daily. It has had serious negative effects on my Mental Health, sense of Hope and Self belief. Using Fear as a weapon/tool against the vulnerable not only affects them, but also their friends family and support workers. I regularly consider suicide as a potential option, should the DWP begin to play dirty with me.
“I cannot work because I have already been medically retired from the Civil Service. I have had two bouts of lymphoma and then cancer was found in my stomach which had to be removed. I cannot eat like other people do and I frequently sink into depression. I received a phone call to the house the other week allegedly from the DWP where the person on the end of the phone referred to me as ‘you people’ when I raised the fact that I found the phrase objectionable the person threatened to make my life hell and would have my benefits stopped. I never claimed anything until I fell ill. The attitude of Iain Duncan Smith and the current Government is terrible and I am very worried as I am genuine and cannot work. I worked for twenty five years before I fell ill.”
“I worry constantly about getting a brown envelope through the door now – I was awarded indefinite DLA and now, through a change by this government, I’m facing yet another round of form filling to try and keep it – under the name of PIP! It nearly broke me when I had to fill in the ESA forms, and I’m dreading the PIP, as I’m convinced, no matter how ill I am, they will take this away from me. If they do, I might as well be dead, as I’l not be able to afford to pay for electric and oil for heating without the DLA I’m on 😦 As far as sanctions are concerned, they’re just another way to control and penalise those with no power to fight, and I don’t think that Labour will be any different from the Tories, if they get in!”
“The Coalition is inhuman. Labour were harsh, but this government is vile. I do not really trust Labour, but i will vote for them to get rid of the tories. Labour have said they will abolish the Bedroom tax, and at conference workshops have said they will stop the sanctions.
I blame the early demise of my best friend on benefit sanctions and have experienced first hand the farcical nightmare of going without heating, electric, food, rent arrears, the threat of being homeless, bailiffs wanting to seize goods and assets I don’t have and increasing health problems on the time and humiliation it takes for claims to be dealt with. If the support was there when needed, I’d be better equipped to do something worthwhile and fell like I had a purpose and some self worth in life! Disgusted :(“
“I have worked for 43 years and been unemployed for 6 months so now my contribution based jsa has run out, so I will get nothing except my stamp paid which I do not benefit from.if you pay into the system all your life you get nothing back. And in my opinion all governments are corrupt.”
“The whole way in which the DWP and the Government has gone about benefit reforms has been purely to denigrate sick and disabled people in order to win public approval for the cuts to welfare. My mental and physical conditions have deteriorated tenfold because of the treatment that I have had from the DWP. My Depressive Disorders have worsened which in turn aggravates my ulcerated colitis, the last 2 years especially has been a nightmare and intolerable. The Psychiatrists have had to up my anti-psychotic medications which leaves me unable to function and in a zombie state at times, I blame the Government for my worsening health.”
“This government do not want anyone to claim benefits. They are targeting the sick and disabled.. Most of the people I know are using food banks. I have a friend who has been on assessment rate for a year and is having bedroom tax deducted from her housing benefit. She barely lives as she only had £46 a week left. She is mentally ill With diabetes and had become sicker because she is frightened of her looming medical assessment.”
“I have been negatively affected personally, through no fault of my own, but by developing fibromyalgia symptoms that make it impossible for me to go out to work. I worked for many years, but only was able to have one year of ESA. I honestly felt suicidal when I was told my claim would run out after 12 months. I’m still here because I refuse to let them kill me. Life is a struggle to pay bills and pay for chiropractic care etc that keeps me from being further disabled. People have died, people will continue to die under the govt’s reign of hate against less fortunate members of society.”
“I work at a food bank and was speaking to a man on Tuesday 10 3 .15, who had been diagnosed with cancer in his kidneys .He is going to have an operation and is very worried. But still is harassed by the jobcentre when he has got so much else on his mind. (family man).”
“the situation has definitely got much worse with greater suffering for claimants under current administration. Unbelievable how the sick and disabled are treated and made to suffer further under this regime. As if coping with serious illness isn’t enough without having to battle for what you’re entitled to and then reluctantly accepting a lower payment because you don’t have the strength to battle on and/or you fear all your benefit will be taken away.”
“Another Tory-led government could be the death of me, given their plans to cut ever further into working age benefits; I am too severely unwell to work, so have no choice but to rely on the State, which I paid into when I was working – even then I suffered badly with my health in a life threatening way.”
“My son has just been sanctioned for missing a ESA medical, he didnt get any notification about the medical so how could he go. That means me and his dad will have to help him out until his money is sorted out. That will leave us short too, as husband is part time and I am ill.”
“I was nearly killed due to incompetence by DWP staff some years ago (even before the present cut backs and sanctions), I’m diabetic and was homeless at the time, my benefits were stopped because they couldn’t verify my address (but it isn’t a requirement to provide an address when you are homeless), after walking to the job centre I collapsed due to lack of food and too much exercise”
“My mental health suffered because of the stigma and culture of contempt. I contemplated suicide. Eventually I decided it would be healthier not to claim benefits, and stopped them.”
“my sons esa was stopped after he was assessed by ATOS and he was never told! the first he knew was when the council sent him a change of benefit form! he went to sign on for JSA and was refused as they said he was to sick to work, If i hadnt fed him he’d have starved”
“Being made redundant after working all my life I found myself in a corner due to how I was treated . I had suicidal thoughts after going down every avenue possible . Job seekers ,bedroom tax , esa .i have been in the support group for nearly 3 years now .”
“As a welfare rights worker I have not had any clients die but I have had many have their physical and/or mental health deteriorate”
“In my job as a charity manager I speak to many young people, who are living well below the poverty line (if such a thing is still recognised) on a daily basis. They have no money for food for themselves or their children, no money for bus or train fare so often can’t get to appointments or are late and get sanctioned. Many are paying back hefty loans they have had to take out because of these sanctions, so find themselves in even more poverty. They struggle with mental and physical illness and have little or no prospect of work. It is a disgrace in the 21st century that the government can allow anyone in the UK to be living hand to mouth in this way, especially when that same government gives millions away to support others in crisis in other countries. it is beyond logic. I have little faith in the current political parties and the voting system, but as a woman I vote, because women in the past, made significant sacrifices to enable me to do so, which I cannot disrespect.”
“I know my health has worsened since the changes and every Sat I dread the post and the brown envelope arriving . I have mental health issues and so do some of my friends and I know their health has suffered because of the changes . I have thought and tried to commit suicide twice . I am not a stupid person or someone who likes to cheat the system . I feel unsupported ostracised and vilified by this present government . I would love to work and hate my current situation but I feel like a criminal . This government has picked on the weakest and most vulnerable in society and made them a scapegoat for the greed of the bankers . As the Dali Lama once said the measure of a good society is how they treat the most vulnerable . Since they have been in power we have gone backwards as a society .”
“Ironically I am an ex JCP worker and I know for a fact that managers willfully hide stats when the shit hits the fan and someone dies. We had no control over what to do – forced to meet targets that were unnattainable unless clients were sanctioned for trivial reasons such as late by 5 mins. I would not work to this and ended up being sacked for bad attendance despite being disabled!!!! So much for Equal Opportunity Employer!”
“The ability by the current government to cover up and deny the links between their policies and subsequent human suffering is very disturbing indeed.”
“Stepdaughter sanctioned because she did nothing wrong… Simply because the woman dealing with her was vile towards her and she said please do not treat me like I’m worthless. In job centres eyes this was sanctionable. Money stopped , appeal started and won but she had 0 income for 6 weeks. How is this right or fair. How is this encouraging anyone to find work, its simply degrading and inhuman.”
“Dealing with the DWP is very stressful and there is an awful sense of panic at the sight of a brown envelope coming through the letterbox wondering what they are going to do to you next. Last year we discovered we were being investigated for benefit fraud and when it was eventually found that it was in fact a DWP error we weren’t even given an apology!”
“My husband is in the ESA Support group and receives PIP at the enhanced level, he is severely disabled following a serious assault. Three months ago his ESA suddenly stopped, no letter from the DWP, nothing. I have made about 10 phone calls to the ESA department plus written numerous letters, but have not had any reply or been given any explanation for the sanction. Today we heard by phone that all his payments will be restored – still NO reason being given for why they were stopped in the first place.This is an outrageous way to treat people. Fortunately I had some savings, but if my husband had been living alone he would by now have been evicted for non-payment of rent or/and would have starved to death.”
“I am in Scotland and will be voting SNP,I do voluntary work in my local community and I am astounded daily by folks treatment at the hands of the DWP,I believe we are classed as non productive,therefore we are denied fair treatment and compassion.”
“My son was left without money and refused essential living fund for emergency assisistance and he is type 1 diabetic so if he does not eat he dies if he cannot wash he has risk of infection leading to complications . There is noone that cares or will help ao if we hs family did not feed him he wooild be a government statistic or in other words a potential loss of my beautiful son that is priceless and who the state have tried to take his dignity plus independance away and hasost his human rights to live . he did not choose to have extremely poor health and i live in fear as what would happen to him if he has to rely on benefits if we his parents are no longer around to support him”
“I waited 12 months to get my high rate of both PIP, I could barely feed myself and could not get the care and help I now get, before this award I was told I was fit for work for 3 years on the trot, now I am unfit for work and severely disabled, the only difference being that the worry and stress has made me sicker than I was originally. There is no need to put people through this needless suffering, they should listen to doctors and consultants they are under minding the professionals as well, as putting societies understanding of social care back 50 years. Very sad for everyone involved.
I live in fear of the next ‘brown envelope’ and as I am one of the small number of women who fell foul of changes to the pension age goalpost changes will have to live with the fear for the next 6 years. I have a debilitating genetic condition with no cure but according to the ATOS ‘health care professional’ I have a ‘bit of arthritis’. I personally feel that the SoS concerned would like to consign every disabled person to a dustbin or asylum.”
“If conservatives get into power I think people disability benefits and people who are ill but are refused PIP will be under serious threat. People who are sick and some disabled have to break their backs to get help from the government and are becoming more and more ill, a lot are taking their own lives. It’s getting harder and harder for me as a severely ill person to feed my family or find housing. According to the DWP I am not entitled to PIP because I can walk a bit and sit in the bath on my own. I am also being forced into work because I am on ESA and I should be able to find a job that will accommodate me, even though I suffer severe pain and chronic fatigue.”
“This “government” cannot win the next election – our lives depend on this. Anyone on benefits, especially the disabled, will suffer so greatly that suicide will become a normal thing to do. This election is a Live or Die one!”
“depression mainly driven by my physical disability was definitely made much much worse by being placed wrongly in work related group for ESA and then compounded yet further by money being stopped altogether after 12 mths.I have finally been placed in the support group for an “indefinite” period only to realise my fight will begin all over again with PIP and it fills me with dread. Again it will be the close support of those around me and all of you at Benefits and work that I will rely on again.”
“I have two friends with mental health problems who were made much, much worse by DWP. Both mentioned the word suicide more than once. Both are in their late 50s/early 60s. What is the point when the NHS is going to end up picking up the pieces if there are any pieces left?”
“My health hasn’t been affected cos I am a Welfare Rights Advisor but my clients health has”
“Although I have not been sanctioned due to being in the support group of esa I have had my battles with the DWP and as a result my mental health suffered because of it and I am dreading this December when I get reassessed for it again and I have been called in for a benefit check to see if I was on the right money, it a traumatic day because I had to wait for a hour to be seen. Ids is destroying the benefit system and destroying lives”
“We do not really know what Labour will change about benefits yet but it seems much more of risk to vote Conservative. I would like to vote Green but am concerned this will just be a lost vote for Labour. I think the way ESA can just be stopped without any notice is frightening.”
“I have a progressive physical disability as well as severe depression and am suicidal at times. I am in the work related group after a fight with Atos over 2 years but even my advisor at Jobcentre plus thinks I should be in the support group however he is helpless with this and is forced to refer me for programmes designed to “help me into work”! I worked as an Adult vocational trainer on YTS Employment Training, Workwise and Jobclub for many years and have benefit training but even I find the forms a struggle so I pity those who go into the process with no help.”
“ I am one of many people who worked hard & paid taxes all the years that they had the health to do so. I am one of many people who have multiple long term incurable painful+debilitating conditions that together make it impossible to function. I am one of many people who have no family to fall back on. I am one of many people who broke down & got iller than ever before from the stress of fighting to keep their support. I am one of many people who believe that most political parties in the UK except the Green Party are trying to destroy the sick & disabled like Hitler did in nazi Germany & that British people don’t care. I am one of many people who live in dread of being assessed again because the extra stress makes them so much iller. I am one of many people who will kill themselves if their support gets cut off because they’re too tired to fight any more & death would be a relief.”
“Anxiety, Fear, Depression, Self harming, Feeling suicidal or actually committing suicide is that all we are entitled to feel if through no fault of our own we end up claiming benefits? That is what any or all of us feel who have gone through the DWP processing mill. I think as a Nation we should be ashamed that it’s come to this, and I think the DWP should get a bloody big shake up for them to see what they are doing to vulnerable people.”
“After almost a year of stress and worry I won my appeal, thanks to help from B&W site. I was honest in answering all the questions and at the medical. What I hadn’t realised was that the questions I was answering didn’t always have anything to do with the information that was required. During that time I was literally worrying about it every hour of the day, and waking in the night to worry some more. to go with all my other health problems I developed PMR, which I was told was caused by “trauma.” If the government had said “we’re only going to pay means-tested benefits” I would have accepted it, though the loss of money would have been a hardship, but this was them saying “We don’t believe you. You are not really sick and disabled, you are a shirker, a worthless person.” I am worse now than I was when it all started and the stress and strain caused me almost a year of feeling depressed and anxious.”
“I continue to feel increasingly worthless and guilty with each passing day and every new revelation about what’s happening with the benefits system. I am an overweight, diabetic benefit claimant, and therefore on a par with terrorists (especially Jihadists), foreigners (especially Eastern Europeans) and criminals (especially paedophiles) – or so it would seem. I’ve got no strength left and have told my wife to prepare in advance for the time my benefit stops, as it surely will. The DWP have not followed their own procedures in any of their dealings with me, and I fully expect them to lay the blame for that at my door by sanctioning me indefinitely to the tune of my entire benefit. The way this whole worthless planet of ours is going, suicide is fast becoming a desirable option. What a sorry mess. I haven’t even got the strength to despair any more. I’ve just given up.”
“Ive been on DLA AND ESA for 5 years due to 3 separate health issues and been sanctioned twice recently due to DWP getting there facts wrong losing paperwork etc”
“it is difficult to fill this in and say i dont know if i will be voting but living a very safe tory seat area there does not feel much point….i wish the voting system would change…i would hope the SNP might prove invaluable in keeping the labour party from perpetuating the worst excesses of the tory party but who knows…i have experienced sanctioning when the job centre lost the form they posted for me in their internal mail, i worry about sanctioning to the point of wanting to take my own life at times…it breaks my heart to think of people going through this all over the country!!! I imagine that if i feel suicidal about it i can’t be the only one…i know how hard it is to go through the humiliation of going hungry and not to feel able to ask for help!!! I want to do something about the system but I am not convinced we have a political party with power that will represent us!”
“Sadly whoever wins the election, Labour or Conservative it is likely that benefits will continue to be the targeted, Conservatives will continue and step up their campaign. Labour will undoubtably continue with what ever they inherit blaming the Conservatives for the mess and claim that drastic changes would cost to much to implement. The only way we are likely to see any real improvement in the way our country is run is if all the people in office are held responsible for their promises and accountable for their actions only then can we exspect to see equality for us all”
“I feel everything is just like Hitler’s propaganda when he brainwashed the German people without regards to the Jews. This government is brainwashing the public about disabled people. God help anyone who dares to become I’ll or disabled.”
“When this government came to power, I was a relatively healthy forty-something. Now after 5 years of Conservative “rule” I am now registered disabled. I have no access to a GP, I have no access to a dentist, no chance of calling on police or Fire service in an emergency and the last time an ambulance was called to my address it took them 16 hours to respond. As for social care? All I can do is laugh. Way to go Tories. You’ve broken Britain.”
“I had a close relative with severe, life threatening mental health problems who loved to work, when their health allowed. An ongoing stressful dispute with a former employer over an untruthful career wrecking reference and the subsequent withdrawal of a job offer had set off their latest mental health crisis. I dont know if this was a coincidence, but they committed suicide on the eve of a jobcentre back to work appointment. Maybe it was just too much for them to go through the work events that had led to the decline of their health again at that time”
“My experience of the DWP initially was awful with the DWP making unfounded assumptions that I was going to recover from my cancer. This astounded my Colorectal Surgeon who said that he would like to meet the Surgeon who was so sure of the outcome as he with all the scans both MRI and CT could not be sure of anything until he got inside and was physically able to move my tumour. Needless to say after my operations and numerous complications with my Surgeons help my DLA was awarded and back dated. Initially it was awarded for two years and after reapplying was awarded indefinitely due to various other complications left by the surgery and excess chemotherapy. My advice, keep at the DWP and seek help from the professionals like Benefits and Work, and your local Citizens Advice Bureau as all claims, even fully legitimate ones are initially refused. The lady who initially helped me from the CAB was an absolutely amazing lady and her English skills left the DWP in no doubt of their wrong doing. It was a verbal assault of the DWP by a Rottweiler.”
“If I was arrested, I would have free legal representation, I would be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the police would not be allowed to ask me deliberately misleading questions or state their assumptions as facts in their reports. As a benefit claimant, I don’t have those rights, and the stress from knowing this and from a decade in the system has directly contributed to the deterioration in my health. While I obviously agree with the importance of human rights being upheld within the criminal justice system, it horrifies me that I’d actually have more rights if I committed a crime.”
“The whole system is against people who have always worked and then due to no fault of their own become ill and can no longer work.The whole process is wrong and very stressful which in turn makes the claimant feel even worse.I voted for camaron in the last election but I worked then.Can no longer work and the last four years trying to get some financial support has been a nightmare..still is I’m currently waiting a pip decision.Its soul destroying.”
“I believe that Labour is almost as bad as the Conservatives, but until politicians actually talk to real people and stand up for what they believe in, then nothing will change. I cannot beleive that the Conservatives are intentionally killing the most vulnerable people in our society but some people do, and what does that say about our society. What kind of society will we be in 10 years time? The statistics that are being published say more people are in work and less people are in poverty, how can this be with the amount of people being sanctioned? Where are the media and politicians that should be questioning all these so called facts?”
“Ed Milliband was reported a few months ago to say that he would support further benefit caps. This suggests to myself that both of the main parties are happy to see people starve to death. Be careful who you vote for. I doubt Labour will do anything to change this sick inhumane way of treating the poor, sick and disabled. My daughter was sanctioned for 13 weeks for not turning up to an appointment she didn’t get told about. She cannot get out so if I hadn’t of been there for her, she too would have been a dead statistic that was brushed under the rug.”
“I will be voting for who ever came second in constituency at the last election in ordert o give the best chance my vote will count against this awful regime”
“Like other commenters, I think the questions are leading and could have been presented more openly. It would require enormous political will for any party to reverse the direction and extent the cuts and propaganda have taken, given the apparent acceptance of them by the self-interested or sleep-walking majority of UK citizens. Having said that, any party taking their foot off the accellerator would provide immediate relief to us all!”
“I had always worked from the day I left school and served my country because I believed in what we stood for as a fair and compassionate country paying my dues thinking that nobody would ever starve or be driven to suicide. Then through no fault of my own I became very ill and unable to work. What a shock I was in for! Far from the caring government who’s safety I looked after for many years I found I was being treated like a criminal by these very people. Have they driven me to suicide? yes they have I have had two attempts to take my life as the despair and humiliation at the hands of these uba rich insensitive idiots. I don’t sleep any more as the ptsd is that bad and most of my money goes on specialist pain relief from both home and abroad as my health board can’t afford the treatment I need so any thought of luxuries go out the window. It’s a laugh a minute out here on benefits Mr Cameron come and give it a try. I bet you and your family wouldn’t stay long!”
“My uncle hung himself just over two years ago. He was 61, he worked all his life as an electrician but found it difficult to work because of knee problems. He attempted to claim ESA but was turned away. He was too proud to ask family for help and when we thought he was working, he was in fact starving. When he was found there was no food in the house. His wife had passed away two years previously so he lived alone. On another issue, I was in receipt of ESA because I have ME. Three years ago I developed double-vision. I informed DWP and had to go through a re-assessment where I was found fully fit to work even though the double vision has made it impossible for me to do the few things I could do before, I relied on my car to get about but I can no longer drive. I attempted to sign for JSA but because I was 20 mins early for my appointment I was made to stand outside in the freezing cold (this was January 2014) until it was my appointment time. By the time I got back inside I was seriously ill and they refused to take my claim because I was ‘clearly too ill to work’. It took me over six months to recover from that incident which resulted in several hospital visits following it. I am not in receipt of any benefits what so ever so I don’t get my NI contribution credited. This will impact upon my pension. DWP have never made any contact with me since so they have no idea if i’m alive or dead. I am unable to work but don’t ‘exist’ anymore. And yes, I did feel suicidal.”
“I claimed ESA because of clinical depression. My claim was rejected leaving me destitute and close to suicide. Thanks to help from this site and my GP, I survived and got my benefit re-instated. This was two years ago, pressures on claimants have worsened and will increase again if the tories win the election.”
“I have retired from working at DWP, Job Centre Plus. I know that IDS has had a hidden agenda for sanctioning claimants. The civil servants role is now to Police claimants rather than help them. Senior managers are running scared of targets for sanctions. Public facing staff have been threatened with disciplinary action if the miss or overlook sanction opportunities.”
“I now dread any post that looks like it has come from the DWP….I can honesty say I am scared stiff of more medicals carried out by unsuitable people just trying to fit claimants into certain groups that are in no way a true reflection of life as a sick person with multiple illnesses….They have created a thought pattern that ALL claimants are really not as bad as they say they are, and are just lazy or money grabbing…The Conservatives are responsible for trying to use the sick and disabled as their scape goat, thus taking the attention away from the true problems else where……Not so long ago we were on a path of change towards disabled people after the high of the Para Olympics, however I believe we are now back where we were before the Olympics worked it’s magic…I am sick to death of feeling ashamed of being sick and disabled ! Before I had to stop working I paid my taxes like other people and did not choose to be the way I am, I am constantly reminded of my disability’s should I really have to be ashamed of the hand that has been dealt to me too ? !”
“I nearly took my own life after I failed an assessment”
“I suffer from depression and anxiety in addition to chronic physical problems. I am lucky in that by joining Benefits and Work I was guided through the process of conversion from IB to ESA. I was placed in the support group without having to attend a medical examination in August 2012. But the whole time from even before I received the claim form from Atos, to being put in the support group – Atos didn’t bother to tell me of their decision! – to fears around the 12 month period I was told I would receive ESA until it would be reviewed, was so horribly stressful that I nearly attempted suicide. At the moment I am fairly stable, but as soon as this renewal of ESA comes around my likelihood of suicide will be vastly increased.”
“RE: claimant deaths. It’s worth pointing out that even when botched assessments have consequences as tragic as this (and there are cases on record in which coroners have specifically cited the assessment as a contributory factor towards a claimant’s death), no-one is ever held to account. The DWP always say they’re not to blame because they just go on the report they get from Atos (and now Maximus). The response from Atos is that they’re not to blame because they only produce the report, with the DWP taking the decision on eligibility. There is no reason to think that this appalling lack of accountability will change under Maximus. If these deaths were happening in the NHS, and with a similar lack of accountability, there would be national uproar and heads would roll. It seems claimants are now treated worse than criminals. Even those convicted of murder, rape or child abuse can’t be punished by being made to go hungry, yet that is exactly what the sanctions regime is now doing to claimants. The fact that this gets so little coverage in the media is sickening.”
“Although I can’t in all honestly say whether people actually die because of failures in the benefits system, I can say that I have personally experienced severe distress both emotionally and financially because of the way my son and I have been treated over the years. When the disability benefit is there you have more peace of mind while still knowing that it can be taken away next time which has happened several times. It can be a lonely, frustrating and difficult journey.”
“It’s a sorry state of affairs when departments that were initially set up to help those less fortunate than others now go out of their way not to tell you what you are entitled to, but take great pleasure in telling you what you are not. Those who are not mentally or physically capable of being able to find out the relevant information for themselves are the ones suffering most and the most likely to contribute to the deaths mentioned in your survey. In todays so called modern society it’s an absolute disgrace and the instigators should be brought to task.”
“Luckily my son has his family for support otherwise the unfair sanctions on him for not being able to be in 2 places at the same time would have had an enormous effect on his wellbeing. He has been unable to find employment and not had any help at all from DWP in finding work and was refused training and if he did voluntary work was threatened with benefit sanctions. He now has no income at all and has not been able to sign back on JSA.”
“Not just deaths but suffering!!! Late notification of appointments, for example arriving by post less than 12 hours before compulsory appointment, appointments cancelled with little or no notice, having to wait when get there for hours yet not allowed to be late. All point to a system in meltdown, yet the only people punished are the claimants. Sorry for rant hope you get good results from the survey the more people push the truth the less of a cover up there can be”
“I went to a tribunal to get a wrong decision about my benefits overturned (they ruled in my favour). The experience, however, was without a doubt the most stressful of my life. The questioners were trying to emotionally bully me into saying that I could do more than I was able to: “You will want to learn to cook for yourself, won’t you? You don’t want your husband to do everything for you for the rest of your life, do you?” (I do not lack motivation: my illness is a neurological one.) The experience left me feeling violated – and that was a case that I won. I did not have confidence that with methods like that, fair decisions would be made. I dread to think what happens to claimants to lose.”
“I applaud your stand on this issue, and your efforts to bring it to the attention of the general public. I am certain if more people were aware of the real hardships facing those reliant – for whatever reasons – on benefits, instead of the ‘media scapegoating’ that is commonly seen, the government would be forced to take action”
“If the DWP were treating animals in the same way it is treating the sick and disabled there would be mass protests across the country. The politicians are winning the propaganda war and the consequences will be the welfare state going back to the early 1900s (i.e. there won’t be one).”
“When moving from long term incapacity benefit to ESA, my wife was was (wrongly but typically) put in the wrag. When we rang Bathgate, Edinburgh to ask about appeals, we were told ‘ that the only people that get into the support group are the terminally ill’. Thankfully we knew this to be incorrect so pushed on anyway and my wife’s decision was turned around on reconsideration and she is now in the support group. Unbelievable that they can tell such blatant lies!”
“I go hungry regularly and can no longer afford to heat my flat. I’m terrified of sanctions and have got very close to the end of my tether countless times. I have been turned down for PIP although my conditions have worsened, mainly caused by the stress of being on benefits. I feel embarrassed to let my family know how bad it is and rarely see friends anymore as I feel socially excluded. It is a daily living hell and looks as if it could get a lot worse.”
“Last election I voted ‘tactically’ for the Lib Dems, normally I would vote Labour. I feel very concerned that if the Tory government get elected that this will be more propaganda against claimants, serious cuts , and marginalisation of the poor and sick. i don’t have much faith in the Labour Party either, feeling that they are the lesser of 2 evils really. I want to vote Green, as I feel that they would be the only party who would care for claimants but am terrified if I do that the Conservatives would get in again. It’s a dilemma! I think people’s wellbeing has significantly decreased under the coalition and think it very likely people have died , many of them, due to not just cuts. It the pejorative way they are viewed, it’s very debilitating.”
“I am very worried about the future for several vulnerable people I know who are literally unable to negotiate the madness of our benefits bureaucracy. One sanctioned man would probably not have survived without being fed and financially supported by his neighbours. He was terrified, lost several stone in weight and started to become demented. It went on for months and he was taken to court and threatened with eviction. It is utterly disgraceful that sanctions include stopping housing benefit payments. Such heartless treatment of vulnerable people is unforgivable.”
“I was sanctioned and it was 14 months before i had a tribunal appeal which i one this affected me on all levels apart from no money it put me in debt with rent and council tax as not on hb as no benefit to be awarded it i got into debt with bills i had no food for me or my son the treatment was disgusting the staff were so rude and unhelpful things must change.”
“I believe this government is trying to kill me and take my home. I’m a disabled insulin dependent diabetic and forced to go without meals in order to pay bedroom tax and council tax. This time last year I was in credit with my landlord by over £600 but from 1/1/2015 I’m now in arrears. This government is inhuman!”
“Jobcentre plus for the past few days have been using a recorded message at contact centres explaining they can only offer a limited service. They also claim to operate digital offices.”
“These are leading questions, aimed at achieving a particular response, based on limited information provided by an interested party. I do not know the full facts of any of the particular issues raised in the questions and will certainly not give a response based on a one-sided argument. I think that UKIP would be the harshest party for benefit claimants, but any change of party in government could cause additional problems as the system is likely to be changed again to fit with their political views.”
“The survey is a bit biased. It starts by reporting on inhuman sanctions, then moves directly to asking if sanctions are inhuman. Of course they’re inhuman but leading the participant toward the answer you want is a bit dodgy.”
“I have begged the DWP to re-assess my wife who is suicidal about her money being stopped, “nothing heard” for a year after numerous letters, wife is on pills now for her mental state, but still nothing.. I struggle to keep her going, we have had no money for a year now for her.. Labour introduced this awful situation, conservative implemented this and now it reminds me of 1932 Germany when all disabled were made to feel parasites in the public eye and were allowed to be removed from society into camps!”
“I had my ESA Health Medical last week and have been a wreck waiting for the decision. I hope to be placed in the Support Group, because of my condition. If not, I don’t think I have the strength or will to put up a fight. I know for a fact that ‘MY LIFE’ depends on whether I am able to cope with harsh and unfair decisions/sanctions.”
“I work with clients with mental health issues and lots have been very distressed when they have fallen foul of the bedroom tax. Also many clients on ESA have been removed from the support group and placed in the WRAG group which has caused them further distress and anxiety/depression.”
“It is a national disgrace that sanctions are causing claimants to commit suicide, also children suffering because parents are sanctioned, and having to rely on food banks. It is about time the opposition condemn this practice, whilst I would rather they won the election, they are too quiet about this very serious issue.”
“I have a physical health condition that is known to be progressively disabling. I already need round-the-clock support. The transition to ESA last year and the fear of losing essential income when “invited” to claim PIP has hit me mentally. In short, I’m twice as ill as I was prior to the “reforms” of the current government.”
“This tory goverment has left me more ill then i have ever been in my life now i have to find £55 a month for a bedroom my partner/carer uses but they still say it is a spare room HOW is this FAIR SYSTEM”
Source – Benefits & Work, 23 Mar 2015
A leading homeless charity has warned of a ‘postcode lottery’ in the benefits sanctions regime, exposing a ‘deeply flawed system’.
An independent report reveals how a flawed and punitive benefits sanctions regime is having devastating consequences for homelessness, food poverty and health.
The report – ‘Benefit Sanctions and Homelessness’ – carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University for the homeless charity Crisis, shows wide variations in how benefit sanctions are imposed across the UK.
Evidence was also uncovered into how large numbers of “unfair and inappropriate” sanctions are being dished out against benefit claimants.
Around half of all benefit sanctions which are later appealed are overturned in favor of the claimant. Jobcentres and Work Programme providers admitted to not always understanding how the rules should be applied, with Work Programme sanctions the most likely to be overturned (19%).
Homeless people are being ‘disproportionately affected by sanctions’, the report says. Many homeless people face obstacles and barriers that make it more difficult to meet requirements placed upon them in order to continue receiving benefits, including mental and physical health problems, a history of domestic violence and poor literacy and IT skills.
According to the report, sanctions can increase the risk of homelessness and leave vulnerable adults unable to feed themselves. Affected people are forced to borrow money from family and friends, leading to family problems and arguments.
Sanctions can also make it harder for unemployed people to find work; travel to interviews, purchase suitable clothes and can “de-motivate people from engaging with the system”.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said:
“The Government has assured us that benefit sanctions are only for those who refuse to play by the rules. But evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime.
“Sanctions are cruel and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness – cold, hungry and utterly destitute. At the same time, people who are already homeless can struggle to meet the conditions of the regime. Many are trying to rebuild their lives, and losing the support of benefits can be disastrous.
“This isn’t helping people into work. It’s kicking them when they’re down.
“We want our next Government to commit to an urgent, wide-ranging review looking at the appropriateness and effectiveness of sanctions, especially for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.”
Report author, Dr Kesia Reeve of Sheffield Hallam University said:
“This evidence review raises serious questions about the appropriateness, effectiveness, and consequences of benefit sanctions, particularly for homeless people.
“The evidence at present is limited, but points clearly to a system that is more punitive than it is supportive and that fails to take into account the barriers homeless people face.
“The scale and magnitude of sanctions is startling, as is the wide variation found across the country.
“Over the coming year we will be building a robust evidence base, so that informed debate can take place about the appropriateness and effectiveness of welfare conditionality and benefit sanctions in the context of homelessness.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 10 Mar 2015
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was slammed by food bank campaigners after claiming it was wrong to say people relied on them as a result of benefits sanctions.
The Conservative minister said there were many reasons why people relied on them, but said that insisting it was just to do with benefits was “quite wrong”.
His comments came after a Church of England-backed report showed how delays in welfare payments and sanctioning of claimants were key factors behind people using food banks.
Matthew King, assistant manager at Newcastle’s West End food bank – the busiest in the country – said the minister was not telling the whole story.
“Mr Duncan Smith is being economical with the truth. Unfortunately he’s got quite a track record with this subject of being very selective with his facts.”
Talking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Mr Duncan Smith said people going back to work were less likely to want to use food banks.
He also claimed food aid in the UK was “tiny” compared to Germany. He said:
“In Germany, food banks are used every week by 1.5 million people. It is tiny in proportion here compared to a place like Germany which has more generous benefits and in which you have a higher level of pay.
“So just saying it is to do with benefits is quite wrong.
“What I do say is there are lots of other reasons lots of people go to food banks.”
But Matthew King said the people he sees at his West End food bank, which helps around 1,000 households every week, are suffering as a result of benefit sanctions.
“The majority of the people who come to us are subjected to benefits delays and sanctions, or reductions because of the bedroom tax.
“They are really struggling to cope and to put food on the table.”
But Mr Duncan Smith defended the speed with which benefits are processed.
He said that when the Coalition came to power only 88-89% of payments were processed on time, compared to 96-97% now.
But the minister accepted that the advanced payment that all job seekers are entitled to needed to be better publicised.
He said: “If they have a difficulty financially, there is money available to tide them over any particular area or time they have a problem with.
“What the report said was that we need to do more to advertise that. So we are doing that now and I accepted that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Dec 2014
This article was written by Tracy McVeigh, for The Observer on Saturday 30th August 2014
Poverty is forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.
Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and the faculty has linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food. Latest figures show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months but experts say this is only the extreme end.
Dr John Middleton, from the FPH, said the calls would come in the faculty’s manifesto to be published next month and warned that ill-health arising from poor diets was worsening throughout Britain “through extreme poverty and the use of food banks”.
He saidthat obesity remained the biggest problem of food poverty as families are forced into choosing cheap, processed high fat foods just to survive.
“It’s getting worse because people can’t afford good quality food,” he said.
“Malnutrition, rickets and other manifestations of extreme poor diet are becoming apparent. GPs are reporting rickets anecdotally in Manchester, the East End of London, Birmingham and the West Midlands. It is a condition we believed should have died out.
“The vitamin deficiency states of gout, malnutrition being seen in hospital admission statistics are extreme manifestations of specific dietary deficiencies or excesses, but they are markers of a national diet which is poor. Food prices up 12%, fuel prices up double-figure percentages and wages down is a toxic combination, forcing more people to eat unhealthily.”
He said many policy makers forgot the impact of rising energy prices on diet.
“That is the bit people dont really appreciate – a processed meal from a supermarket will need less feeding the meter as of course will a fast food take out. Poor people are having to pay out more of their income on food compared to the better off. There are difficult choices for people on low income.”
Carmel McConnell, founder of the Magic Breakfast charity, which provides a free breakfast to 8,500 British schoolchildren in need each morning, said teachers in the schools she worked in expected to see a dramatic decline in the health of their pupils as they return after the holidays:
“Teachers tell us they know even with free school meals it will take two to three weeks to get their kids back up to the weight they were at the end of the last school term because their families cannot afford the food during the holidays.”
McConnell and Middleton both welcome the Nick Clegg-led intiative to start universal free school meals in schools for younger children, although critics are claiming that schools, already facing a dire shortage of places, may find it difficult to accommodate when the scheme is rolled out later this week.
The UK has 3.8 million children in extreme poverty. Charities such as the Trussell Trust report growing need for food banks but say that some of the items donated can be of poor quality.
Dr Middleton said:
“If the nutritional diseases are markers of a poor diet, the food banks are markers of extreme poverty – the evidence from Trussell Trust suggests the biggest group of users are hard working poor families who have lost benefits, live on low and declining wages and or they have fallen foul of draconian benefits sanctions which propel them into acute poverty and hunger. This is a disastrous and damning indictment on current welfare policy and a shame on the nation. The food banks are providing a real and valued service staving off actual hunger – they are actually keeping people alive.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 30 Aug 2014
Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and collated from the Labour Market System (LMS), show that a total of 635,000 jobseeker’s signed the new Claimant Commitment pledge between 14 October 2013 and 11 April 2014.
The Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) Claimant Commitment was launched by the coalition government in October 2013 and described as “the start of a redefinition of the relationship between the welfare state and claimants”, by the then Employment Minister Esther McVey.
Under the new regime jobseeker’s are required to sign a claimant commitment, or work plan, to “agree regular specific tasks and training opportunities and the penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work will be clearly spelt out”.
These ‘tasks’ could include agreeing to apply for a certain number of jobs each week, taking part in ‘training opportunities’, furthering their education and other ‘tasks’ set out in a personal work plan.
The DWP say that a total of 26,300 Jobcentre staff have been trained to deliver the new JSA Claimant Commitment with the majority of those being in central England and London area’s.
Unemployed people on Universal Credit are also required to sign a claimant commitment as a means of supporting them back into work ‘at the earliest opportunity’.
The new JSA Claimant Commitment has been partly blamed for a shocking 60 per cent rise in the number of jobseeker’s having their benefits sanctioned; where a claimant can see their benefits cut or stopped completely for weeks, months or even years for failure to adhere to the jobseeker’s agreement.
Far from helping unemployed people back into work, the Citizens Advice Bureau say benefit sanctions can create barrier to employment.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“People need a system that can take into account their situation, set suitable work search requirements and where necessary apply sanctions at a level that won’t limit their chances of employment.
“Whilst it is vital that people receiving taxpayers’ support do their utmost to find work, the model needs to work and not make it harder for claimants to find a job.”
> I do wish people like the CAB would remember that everyone receiving benefits is also a taxpayer – be it Council Tax, Bedroom Tax, or VAT, being on benefits does not exempt anyone from paying taxes.
Young people have been hit particularly hard by the new JSA Claimant Commitment and subsequent benefit sanctions.
Despite only making up 27 per cent of all JSA claimants, young people have received 43 per cent of all benefit sanctions dished out by sometimes overzealous Jobcentre staff.
Perhaps even more shocking are the DWP statistics which show 38,969 of these decisions were later overturned following an appeal.
Many jobseeker’s, particularly young people, say they do not understand why their benefits were sanctioned, despite having signed the JSA Claimant Commitment.
Some sanctions have been for what most people would regard as ridiculous reasons: such as failing to turn up for a Jobcentre appointment despite already informing staff that they were attending a job interview.
Benefit sanctions, and the JSA Claimant Commitment, have also been blamed for a 163 per cent surge in the number of people turning to food banks in the past year.
Around 31 per cent of those who had been referred for food parcels from the Trussell Trust say their benefit payments had been delayed, mainly due the draconian sanctions regime introduced by the coalition government.
The Trussell Trust Chairman, Chris Mould, said:
“In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.
A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger.”
Source – Welfare News Service 24 April 2014
This article was written by Patrick Butler, George Arnett, Sarah Marsh and Samir Jeraj, for The Guardian on Sunday 20th April 2014
A fledgling scheme to provide emergency help to the poorest in the country is in chaos, with £67m left unspent and record numbers of families being turned away.
Figures released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests indicate that by the end of January councils in England were sitting on £67m of the £136m that had been allocated to local welfare schemes. Half of local authorities had spent less than 40% of their funds.
An analysis by the Guardian shows that under the new local welfare assistance schemes, four in 10 applications for emergency funds are turned down, despite evidence that many applicants have been made penniless by benefits sanctions and delays in processing benefit claims. Under the previous system – the social fund – just two in 10 were. In some parts of the country, as few as one in 10 applicants obtain crisis help.
The schemes were designed to help low-income families in crisis, such as those in danger of becoming homeless or subjected to domestic violence. Charities and MPs have warned that those denied help are turning to food banks and loan sharks.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, which offers debt and legal advice, said the emergency financial support system was in chaos. “When the safety net fails, people are left with no way of putting food on the table, paying the rent or keeping the lights on. Confusion over what help is available and who to approach means that people who need support are left high and dry.
“People are in danger of being pushed into the arms of payday lenders and loan sharks by the chaotic emergency support system. Citizens Advice bureaux see people in desperate need of support who have nowhere else to turn when jobcentres and the local council don’t give out support.”
Under the new system, emergency funds are no longer ringfenced, meaning that councils can divert unspent cash to other budgets. Local welfare assistance schemes were created a year ago in 150 English authorities, alongside national schemes in Wales and Scotland, following the abolition of the social fund.
Most schemes do not offer cash or loans, but support in kind, such as food parcels and supermarket vouchers. The social fund provided loans repayable against future benefit payments – typically about £50 – and larger capital grants to destitute families who needed help to furnish flats or replace broken domestic appliances.
Despite charities reporting that demand for help has rocketed as a result of economic hardship and welfare cuts, some councils spent more money setting up and administering their welfare schemes than they gave to needy applicants.
Councils told the Guardian they had provided less in emergency funding than in the past because there was a lack of public awareness of the new system. Some had failed to advertise their schemes, while others set such tight eligibility criteria that many applicants – typically including low-paid working families, benefit claimants and those deemed to have not lived in their local area for long enough – were turned away.
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, who has repeatedly raised the issue of local welfare in parliament, said his constituents frequently reported struggles to get crisis help. Constituents he has helped include:
• A low-wage family with three children, including an 11-month-old baby, who applied for £35 to pay for gas, electricity and baby food to help them until payday. The council scheme initially referred the family to a food bank. After lobbying by Danczuk, they were given £20 for energy costs, but were refused money for baby food.
• A pregnant mother and her partner, who after benefit changes were left with £7 a week for food after rent and council tax. They were told that they could not apply as the scheme was for “genuine emergencies” such as fires and flood.
In each case Danczuk believes the families would have qualified for emergency support under the social fund. “Central and local government are pushing people into the hands of payday loan companies and food banks. They have in effect privatised the lender of last resort,” he said.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions, which funds local welfare schemes run by 150 local authorities across England, said: “In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, councils can now choose how best to support those most in need. It is for local councils to decide how they spend their budgets.”
But a Conservative council leader has called on the government to reinstate local welfare assistance funding, calling it a “cut too far”. Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex county council, said the proposed cut would leave many low income families without vital support when they were going through a “tough patch in their lives”.
A briefing note prepared by the council found that 43% of 5,582 individuals and families helped by the local welfare fund to the end of February had applied because they had been left penniless by benefit sanctions and delays.
The Local Government Association has called upon the ministers to reverse the cut, and it is understood a number of councils and welfare charities are preparing to seek a judicial review of the government’s decision to cut local welfare assistance funding in April 2015.
Many councils are using part of their welfare assistance allocation to provide financial support for local food banks, which provide penniless applicants with charity food parcels.
Lady Stowell, a local government minister, told the House of Lords in January that local authorities were “doing a good job of supporting people in times of crisis and are doing it without using all the funding that has been provided so far from DWP”.
But Centrepoint, the homelessness charity said that local welfare assistance underspending meant many homeless youngsters could not get vital support when they moved from hostels into independent living. “Councils need to start using these funds to address urgent need now and ensure that young people have access to it,” said Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint’s chief executive.
Two local authorities – Labour-run Nottinghamshire county council and Tory-run Oxfordshire – have scrapped local welfare assistance altogether and plan to divert the money into social care services..
Conservative-run Herefordshire county council had spent less than £5,000 of its annual £377,000 allocation by the end of December last year, equivalent to 1% of its local welfare budget.It said its spending reflected low demand for crisis help, a claim disputed by Hereford Citizens Advice and Hereford food bank, which said they had been inundated with requests.
Labour-run Islington council had spent 80% of its emergency funds budget by the end of December last year and had spent all its emergency funds by April. It said it had encouraged its frontline staff to refer individuals to its local welfare scheme to ensure they got crisis help and assistance with any underlying problems, such as debt.
Local authorities are anticipating further problems over local welfare in 2015 when the DWP scraps funding for the schemes. Councils, charities and MPs have called on the government to restore and ringfence the crisis support allocation.
Councils say that in some cases they have refused emergency help because benefit claimants have been wrongly referred to local authority welfare schemes by jobcentres. Some councils have refused to accept applications from those who ought to have been offered a short-term benefit advance from their local jobcentre.
Scotland and Wales have their own welfare assistance schemes and these have higher applicant success rates than in England. In Northern Ireland, which still has the social fund, 70% of applicants received help.
Source – Welfare News Service 20 April 2014
Nearly 60,000 people sought emergency food from the Trussell Trust in 2013-14 compared with just 10,510 in the previous financial year.
Across the country 45% said problems with benefits had driven them to claim, while 20% cited low income. And since April 2010 the total number of referrals in Britain has risen from 61,000 to over 900,000 – up by a factor of fifteen.
Trust chairman Chris Mould called the figures “shocking” and warned things were getting “worse rather than better” for the Northern poor.
He said: “This figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty. It doesn’t include those helped by other providers, people who are too ashamed to seek help, or the large number who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest any time soon.”
The figures do not exclude repeat visitors but simply record the number of people cited on vouchers given by jobcentres, doctors and social services to claim food.
They are likely to inflame controversy over the link between food banks and the government’s welfare reforms. Critics claim organisations like the Trussell Trust are becoming an unacknowledged and unpaid part of the welfare system.
Changes since 2012 include raising the minimum jobseekers’ sanction from one to four weeks and the start of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.
Margaret Nelson, the Trust’s North East spokeswoman, said benefit sanctions were behind much of the rise and that many food bank users were “suicidal” when they came in.
She claimed some had benefits stopped for missing appointments even when they had phoned and been given permission.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We’re spending £94bn a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.
“The OECD say there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business.
“The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”
He cited an ONS survey which found fewer people saying it was “difficult to get by” in 2012 than 2010 and claimed benefit clearance times are “improving year on year.”
And he said: “There is no robust evidence that welfare reforms or benefit administration are linked to increased use of food banks.”
> ????? How can they not be ?
Tory peer David Freud told the Lords last year that food bank use was driven by “supply”, saying more people were going because the food was free and available.
But a three-year study by Sheffield University this month argued rising demand was to blame, with benefit cuts and sanctions seen as a major cause.
The DWP insists it does not “refer” people to food banks but merely “signposts” them – a distinction not made by the banks themselves.
Meanwhile over 35 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders will call for “urgent action” from the three main party leaders.
Reverend Mark Bryant, the Anglican bishop of Jarrow, praised food banks’ efficiency and kindness but said society had “seriously got something wrong” to need them at all.
He said: “Something in a region of a third of the people they are helping are simply people whose benefits have been delayed.
“These are not people who are trying to work the system or anything like this. These are people who are entitled to benefits and the benefits system hasn’t delivered on time.
“You go to places like this, and you hear the stories, and you simply come away thinking ‘something isn’t right’. We have seriously got something wrong when people who for a whole variety of reasons are very vulnerable cannot afford either to feed themselves or to feed their families.”
Mr Bryant spoke at Gateshead Food Bank while on a joint visit with the Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham.
Source – Newcastle Journal 16 April 2014
Will any organization in the North East follow this lead ?
Beginning in April next year thousands of unemployed people will be forced into six month workfare placements with charities or community organisations. The scheme is a huge roll out of mandatory workfare and depends on the so-called voluntary sector playing ball to be successful.
Volunteer Centre Liverpool’s re-assuring statement this week pledges they will not take part in Osborne’s workfare and encourages others to think carefully about any possible involvement in workfare. As they rightly point out, forced work, under threat of destitution, is not volunteering:
“There has been a lot of talk recently about the latest scheme to help people who are unemployed, with mention of “compulsory volunteering” as part of the “Help to Work” programme. DWP do not refer to it as volunteering, but others are starting to, which…
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