Tagged: Disabled People

New minister for disabled strongly against disability benefits and human rights

The prime minister has announced that the new minister for disabled people is Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon. Tomlinson has a strong anti-benefits and anti-human rights background.

Tomlinson has replaced Mark Harper, who is now the Conservative chief whip.

Tomlinson is a former national chairman of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Conservative party and has been an MP since 2010.

He is a party loyalist, with a strong record of voting against the interests of sick and disabled claimants.

According to They work For You, Tomlinson:

  • Voted strongly for of the bedroom tax
  • Voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
  • Voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
  • Voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
  • Voted very strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
  • Voted very strongly against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

Tomlinson also voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act.

His responsibilities a minister for disabled people include:

  • cross-government disability issues and strategy
  • Employment and Support Allowance, Work Capability Assessment and Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Programme
  • disability benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance)
  • carers
  • appeals reform
  • fraud and error (including debt management)

Tomlinson has some interest in health issues, but does not seem to have shown any great interest in disability issues during his time as an MP.

Source – Benefits & Work,  12 May 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3093-new-minister-for-disabled-strongly-against-disability-benefits-and-human-rights

Disability campaigner to deliver birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith

Disability campaigner Mary Laver is to deliver a special birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith – to thank him for plans to “imprison” her in her own home.

She is protesting against his party’s plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on June 30.

Mary, 67, of Forest Hall, Newcastle, said: “I’m very frightened about what this will mean to me and anything I can do to at least raise the issue of this appalling cut, the better.”

The former RAF servicewoman has rheumatoid arthritis so severe that she cannot walk or use her hands.

As such she requires constant care – receiving around 18 hours a day or 126 a week at present. The majority is funded by her local authority but 46 hours a week comes as a result of the ILF.

Ironically it was set up by the Conservatives in 1988 for disabled people with high support needs to enable them to live in the community rather than move into residential care.

It costs about £320m a year and helps nearly 18,000 disabled people across the country.

However, according to the plan, in June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities – but there is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.

And after one year, the funding from the Government will cease, meaning local authorities need to find it from their own ever decreasing budgets.

Mary is travelling to London with her support team for her protest on Thursday, the Department for Work and Pension Minister’s 61st birthday.

She will set off in her powered wheelchair and travel from the House of Commons, via the Royal Courts of Justice, 14 miles to Duncan Smith’s Chingford constituency in London to deliver a card she has had specially designed for the occasion.

She said: “I do not want to trust anyone else with such an important gift.”

Speaking of the effect the closure of the ILF will have on her, Mary said: “He is going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal. My crime? The crime that I have committed is becoming a disabled person.

“Not only am I disabled, but I am severely disabled with a mandatory life sentence.”

In 2009, Mary travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair to raise money for The Royal British Legion and made it into the ­Guinness Book of ­World Records.

She has taken part in the Great North Run and in 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Newcastle.

Mary said: “This will probably be my last long journey.”

She added: “There are 18,000, give or take a few, ILF users who are going to lose on the 30th June, the funding to live an independent life, a life that non-disabled people accept as normal.

“The ILF stands for, Independent Living Fund, that is what the it gives us, our independence to enable us to live our life as we see fit.

“My message to all political parties is that it is not too late to save the ILF. Be true to yourself and stop the cruellest cut of all, cutting the Independent Living Fund, the ILF.”

A conservative spokesman said: “Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.

“Spending on disability benefits has increased under this Government – we continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services provided to them. As part of our long-term economic plan we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Apr 2015

Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru Unite Against Austerity

The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and SNP have announced their intention to unite against the austerity agenda followed by Westminster’s main political parties.

Callous and vicious austerity measures have impacted heavily upon benefit claimants, low-income families and disabled people.

Policies such as the hated ‘bedroom tax’ and other welfare reforms have led to substantial and significant falls in income for some of Britain’s poorest citizens.

The Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all reiterated their pledges to continue spending cuts, of various levels and guises, if they win a majority in the 2015 general election.

Party leaders from the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party say they will “unite whenever possible to battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity”.

Speaking during a meeting at Westminster, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said:

“I am delighted to have the chance to catch up with two other female leaders of anti-austerity parties in the UK. Together, we represent, with the Scottish Green Party, a new way of doing politics, a move away from the business-as-usual model of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems that no longer represents public opinion.

“We are the voice of real change – a voice that must be represented in the leader debates next year.

“The ‘Green surge’ that has seen membership in England and Wales more than double, and Scottish Green Party membership nearly quadruple in 2014 is a sign of the shifting political landscape.

“Collectively the Green parties will be standing in more than 75% of seats in the UK, reflecting the advance of our political philosophy that rejects austerity and believes that everyone should have access to the resources for a decent quality of life, with certainty, without fear, while we all live collectively within the limits of our one planet.

“And in thinking about future financial stability, we have to focus on the reason for our current difficulties, the near-collapse of our fraud-ridden, reckless, over-large financial sector.

“Green MP Caroline Lucas is an outstanding MP as shown by the numerous awards she has received including the prestigious MP of the year for her work with disadvantaged communities. Electing more Greens next year will help to bring about a peaceful revolution in British politics, towards a government that works for the common good, not just for the few.”

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said:

“There is no end in sight to the Westminster cuts that are already hitting Scotland hard – the Autumn Statement earlier this month set out another £15bn of cuts that are coming our way. Not only will these cuts continue to hit hard-working families, women and the vulnerable hardest – they will also put growth and competitiveness at risk.

“But despite the deeply damaging impacts of failed austerity, the Tories and Labour have made crystal clear their determination to carry on regardless.

“And after four years propping up the Tories, the Lib Dems have no credibility. It is time for a new approach to UK politics – and for our parties to use our influence to bring about progressive change at Westminster.

“Following the referendum in Scotland, the political landscape has changed utterly. The SNP is now the third biggest political party in the UK in terms of membership.

“Last month we sent this message to the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 – to exclude the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru from general election TV debates would be to wilfully ignore this new political landscape. Put simply, it is just not on.

“Electing a strong group of SNP MPs will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster. Along with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, we will work to do everything possible to tackle inequality and bring about sustainable economic growth.”

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:

“Plaid Cymru and the SNP provide an alternative to Westminster’s promise of austerity and cuts to public services. As the only parties, together with the Greens, to reject the cuts consensus, it is unjustifiable and undemocratic to exclude our three parties from proposed leaders’ debates during the forthcoming UK elections. I reiterate my calls for Plaid Cymru’s inclusion in those debates in order to ensure the people can exercise their right to question and scrutinise all major parties.

“The people of Wales face a real choice at the election. All three Westminster parties are committed to slash and burn economics. That means cuts for the sake of cuts rather than balancing the books by investment and spreading opportunities. It is likely that there will be another hung parliament after the election. In that scenario, Plaid Cymru could hold the balance of power alongside our colleagues in the SNP. Should that happen, Plaid Cymru will seek a rebalancing of power and wealth in the UK: transferring powers away from London to Wales so more of our fate is in our own hands; spreading investment away from the booming City of London to areas in most need of investment.

“If the people of Wales return a strong contingent of Plaid Cymru MPs in May, then Wales will be best placed to secure an outcome to improve the prospects of our people and communities.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  15 Dec 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/green-party-snp-plaid-cymru-unite-austerity/

One In Ten Admit To Using Abusive Language Toward A Disabled Person

One in ten adults in the UK admit to using abusive or offensive language toward a disabled person, a new poll reveals.

Results of the survey suggests that adults are ‘perpetuating and normalising bullying behaviour’ by directly voicing discriminatory remarks at disabled people and those with learning difficulties.

One in ten adults have directed abusive language toward a disabled person or someone with learning difficulties, with half of these doing so to be insulting.

The survey released today by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, together with the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), shows that four in ten (44%) adults use the words ‘spaz’, ‘spastic’, ‘retard’ or ‘mong’ in ‘casual’ conversation.  In addition, 65% hear others using these words in conversation, with over a third (37%) witnessing them being used online, says the NCB.

Almost a third (30%) of people who took part in the survey admitted to using the words directly toward a disabled person, with one in five saying they regarded it as ‘banter’ and one in ten used the words to be insulting.

Only 53% of adults accepted that using abusive remarks toward disabled people was unacceptable and 30% said they didn’t consider the words to be offensive.

When asked if they knew what the words meant, over a half of adults surveyed said didn’t know the history of the word ‘mong’, over a third didn’t know where the word ‘spastic’ came from and a quarter were unaware of the origins of the word ‘retard’. After being told about the origins of the words 28% said they would continue using them.

The findings also suggests abusive language is being picked up and used by children. 70% of teachers polled in the survey said they have overheard pupils using the words ‘spaz’, ‘spastic’, ‘retard’ or ‘mong’ at school. Half of the teachers surveyed said they had heard the language in ‘casual’ conservation, while the same number said children were using the words to insult or upset other children.

> Nothing new there, though. Spaz was an insult when I was at primary school – directed at able-bodied kids. I doubt anyone actually knew of its origins or connotations, it was essentially a new word used as a term of abuse.

Likewise Mo – it wasn’t until much later that I worked out that it was descended from Homosexual. All we knew was that it was a derogatory term.

Presumably these terms originated with adults, taken up by their kids (without them understanding their meaning) and passed along to other kids, who passed them along ad infinitum…

More than half of teachers (55%) hear children using discriminatory language toward a disabled child/child with SEN, with just under half of these instances deliberately used as insults.

Disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN) are twice as likely to be bullied as other children. 83% of young people with learning difficulties have suffered bullying, say the NCB. 90% of parents of children with Asperger Syndrome have reported the bullying of their child in the previous year.

National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Lauren Seager-Smith, said:

“1 in 5 children of school age have a special educational need, those who existing evidence shows us are significantly more likely to suffer bullying. Our findings show that children are using these bullying words in general conversation, and worse still, to deliberately insult each other and their disabled peers or those with special educational needs.”

As adults we need to ask ourselves what our role is in this, when it became acceptable to use these and other discriminatory words as part of ‘banter’ and why we feel disabled people and those with special educational needs are fair game.”

> Because they’re seen as easy prey. Just as the unemployed as a whole are seen as easy prey by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith and his fellow bullies.

Existing evidence demonstrates just how pervasive the bullying of disabled children and those with special education needs is, yet as a society we are using discriminatory and hurtful language that is perpetuating the bullying of these vulnerable children in our schools. We must challenge the normalisation of this language and recognise the impact it is having on the attitudes of generations to come.”

Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson said:

“This is completely unacceptable. No child should ever say or hear these words whether used in conversation or as an insult.”

> So what about the rhetoric about scroungers, as pumped out incessantly by your government ? Isn’t that the same thing ?

“Schools have a responsibility to ensure that children can learn in an environment free from prejudice.”

To help tackle this we have given more power to heads to punish bad behaviour and there’s also now a greater focus on behaviour and bullying in school inspections.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  17 Nov 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/one-ten-admit-using-abusive-language-toward-disabled-person/

Welfare reform reinforces growing prejudice against disabled and unemployed, report finds

British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of unemployed and disabled people, according to academics at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).

A study by the University of Sheffield has found there is a growing sense that unemployment is caused by individuals’ personal failings, rather than by structural problems in the economy.

People tend to believe that work is plentiful, and that unemployment was therefore a lifestyle choice, rather than an imposition, and that poverty therefore results from moral deficiencies.

The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working.

It is clear that the derogatory term ‘chav’ remains in popular usage. Middle class research participants tended to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture so as to validate and re-affirm their own superior social position. Working class respondents were more likely to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture in order to distinguish themselves from it.

We appear to be witnessing the re-emergence of traditional distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, associated with the Victorian era.

This research identifies contemporary attitudes to the unemployed by drawing on a series of case studies conducted in Leeds, in Northern England. The evidence presented here is based on 90 interviews which were conducted with participants from a variety of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds.

The Coalition government’s welfare policies are in part a response to the kind of popular prejudices identified in the research. However, government rhetoric on welfare ‘scroungers’ is likely to reinforce these attitudes – focussing blame for poverty on individuals rather than on wider structural problems in Britain’s increasingly low-pay, low-skill economy.

There is in fact a danger that misplaced fears and prejudices relating to welfare claimants will present a threat to social cohesion, potentially legitimising policies which might exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social inequality.

Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield and author of the report, said:

The evidence is mounting that the coalition government’s austerity agenda has been targeted at the poorest groups in society rather than the most affluent.

“This research shows that this is reinforcing prejudicial and intolerant attitudes towards the most disadvantaged members of society, as the government has been successful in individualising the causes of poverty and unemployment, and marginalising the socio-economic determinants of hardship.”

You can download the report from the Sheffield University website

Source –  Benefits & Work,  11 Nov 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2935-welfare-reform-reinforces-growing-prejudice-against-disabled-and-unemployed-report-finds

Sickness Benefit Cuts ‘Considered’ By Ministers

Ministers are considering making drastic cuts to the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), internal documents reveal.

Internal documents seen by the BBC reveal how ministers have ‘considered’ making draconian cuts to ESA payments for those claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

It is believed that the move would reflect how sick and disabled people in the WRAG are required to take steps toward future employment, even though they are currently thought of as ‘unfit for work’.

Sick and disabled people in the WRAG of ESA currently receive £28,75 a week more than JSA claimants, but papers seen by the BBC suggest that ministers have at least considered cutting this to just 50p more. The higher amount recognises additional costs incurred by sick and disabled people on a daily basis.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the proposals were not government policy. However, this doesn’t mean that such a policy would not be implemented in the future, or find its way into the Tories general election manifesto.

The documents also reveal how the the government has been forced to bring in an extra 100 fitness-for-work assessors to clear a backlog of more than 60,000 ESA claims. The extra assessors will be hired through the employment support and training agency Pertemps.

DWP is expected to announce the successor to Atos in the next few months, who pulled out of a contract to assess unemployed people for ESA in the wake of criticism about the accuracy of its assessments.

Speculation is mounting that the U.S firm Maximus will be picked as the preferred bidder for a contract worth £500 million over three and a half years.

ESA is claimed by around two million people and provides crucial financial support for those who, through no fault of their own, are too sick or disabled to be able to work.

Dame Anne Begg, chair of the commons work and pensions committee, said she would support reforms to ESA but not any reduction in the value of the benefit. She added:

That’s not reform, that is just saving money. I hope that is not something the government is going to come forward with.

> Why not ? It’s never stopped them in the past.

Click here to find out more (BBC News)

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  30 Oct 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/sickness-benefit-cuts-considered-ministers/

Labour Pledge New ‘Work Support Programme’ For Disabled Benefit Claimants

A future Labour government would introduce a new ‘Work Support Programme’ for unemployed disabled people, in a bid to reduce the number of people claiming sickness benefits.

Analysis of figures uncovered as part of an investigation into government spending reveals that the coalition has overspent on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by around £8 billion, claim Labour.

This comes at the same time as figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that the number of people claiming ESA has risen by 50,000 in just six months.

Labour say this is due to the ‘failure’ of the controversial Work Programme, dubbed ‘workfare’ by its opponents, in helping sick and disabled people into work. Only around one in twenty ESA claimants who participate in the scheme find secure and lasting jobs, while the overwhelming majority find themselves back at the jobcentre and trapped on benefits.

Labour would ‘improve the employability’ of sick and disabled unemployed people, says the shadow minister for disabled people Kate Green MP, through the introduction of a specialist programme designed to support them into work.

>  Phrases like ‘improve the employability’  always send a shiver up my spine. And it sounds like business as usual should Labour get in… the poor are the enemy – punish them !

The ‘Work Support Programme’ would help support ESA claimants regarded as being the ‘furthest from work’, say Labour.

The programme would also utilise ‘existing resources’ from underperforming government schemes, such as the Work Programme and Work Choice, and then make use of those ‘resources’ to reform the discredited Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Labour say they want to ensure that the WCA ‘provides a gateway to back-to-work’ support, rather than a barrier.

The majority of sick and disabled openly say they would welcome the opportunity to work, if they are able to, but many claim that employers discriminate against them in favour of healthier, more abled-bodied job seekers.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s shadow minister for Disabled People, said:

Thousands of disabled people who want to work are being failed by the Tories. The Work Programme isn’t working for disabled people, with just one in 20 finding jobs, while this Tory-led Government slashes specialist support in job centres.

“The Tories’ failure to help disabled people into work comes at a huge cost to disabled people in every corner of the country who are being let down and to taxpayers who are facing an £8 billion bill.

“We must bring down social security spending and doing that requires a new approach to tackle the root causes of these costs directly. That’s why Labour will give disabled people the support they need to find a job.

“Our Work Support programme will bring hope to thousands of disabled people who have been let down by David Cameron’s government.”

No further details were available at the time of publication.

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  09 Oct 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/labour-pledge-new-work-support-programme-disabled-benefit-claimants/

DWP denies fraud cover-up, but admits it never interviewed whistleblowers

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that it failed to interview two whistleblowers who made serious allegations of fraud by a private sector provider within the government’s specialist work programme for disabled people.

DWP supposedly launched an investigation last autumn into the claims made against Seetec by two of its former employees.

Both of the women, Perveen Sud and Reena Gour, had sent brief emails alerting DWP that the Work Choice provider had been artificially inflating the number of jobs it said it was finding for disabled people.

But despite the serious allegations outlined in their emails last July and August, neither of the women has been interviewed by the DWP’s fraud investigators, and they only discovered that the government had cleared Seetec of fraud when informed last month by Disability News Service (DNS).

This week, DWP finally admitted that neither woman had been interviewed about the allegations they had made about Seetec, which is the worst-performing of the eight Work Choice contractors, according to the latest government figures.

A DWP spokesman claimed there was no reason to interview them because all the information the investigators needed was in their emails.

But DNS has seen the email sent by Sud last August and it includes only a 100-word summary of her allegations, over just four sentences.

None of the details that she passed to DNS were included in the email, and both Sud and Gour have told DNS that they had detailed information that they had been ready to share with DWP.

Sud and Gour have told DNS this week that they have been waiting for months for DWP to contact them about their claims.

Gour said: “It’s ridiculous. If someone makes allegations, you call them and you speak to them.

Sud added: “They need to talk to us. It’s outrageous. There is no way you should have those kind of accusations made and not be interviewed about them.”

This week, DWP insisted that it had acted correctly and had not attempted to cover up their fraud claims.

The DWP spokesman said: “As far as I can work out, they [the whistleblowers] emailed the information to us and then they were written to a few months later to say it was still being investigated.

“As I understand it, the information they provided was investigated. They raise the issue and we look into it.

“[Our investigators] investigated it and found there was not fraud. If you wish to say it is a cover-up, that is your prerogative. I would say it is not a cover-up.”

Asked whether ministers were aware of the “investigation”, he said: “I really don’t know.

Sud and Gour told DNS last year how Seetec offered Work Choice clients as free labour to charities and other host organisations, and then paid their wages for the next six months, while allegedly pretending to DWP that the salaries were instead being paid by the host organisations.

Three organisations told DNS how they had accepted disabled job-seekers for six-month placements, even though it was made clear to Seetec that they were just volunteer roles, they would not be paid, and there would be no jobs available at the end of the six months.

Despite this, Seetec – which provides Work Choice services in west and north London and has more than 800 employees – is alleged to have logged the placements as “job outcomes”, claiming payments from the government both at the beginning and end of the six months.

Seetec was able to make a profit because the amount it received from DWP – thousands of pounds for every client who completed six months in a job – was hundreds of pounds a month more than it paid the clients, who only had to work 20 hours a week at minimum wage to qualify for a job outcome.

Source – Disability News Service,  16 May 2014

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/05/dwp-denies-fraud-cover-up-but-admits-it-never-interviewed-whistleblowers/

Universal Jobmatch Falls Apart – The First Nail In The Coffin Of Universal Credit

Ha… and I’ve still not signed up for it. 🙂 This’ll be another good arguement – why sign up for something that’ll be phased out anyway ?

the void

discarded-old-computer-1 In a major blow for Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reforms, The Guardian are reporting that government job-seeking website Universal Jobmatch is to be scrapped.

Universal Jobmatch was launched at huge cost towards the end of 2012 as a means of spying on unemployed people to ensure they are carrying out sufficient jobseeking activity.  Changes to conditions for receiving benefits mean that in some cases unemployed claimants are expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work.  When Universal Credit is finally launched (stop laughing), millions more people, –  including part time or self-employed workers, lone parents and disabled people – will also be expected to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’.

With Jobcentres already desperately over-stretched due to other reforms to social security, Universal Jobmatch was intended to be a ‘digital by default’ way of policing this new regime on the cheap.  Iain Duncan Smith had…

View original post 446 more words

Welfare State Presides Over ‘Culture Of Fear’, Charities Say

This article  was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for The Guardian on Tuesday 18th February 2014

Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions is presiding over “a culture of fear” in which jobseekers are set unrealistic targets to find work – or risk their benefits being taken away, leading charities have told an official inquiry.

Hostel residents with limited IT facilities are being directed to apply for 50 jobs per week, while single parents are being told they must apply for full-time jobs to continue receiving jobseeker’s allowance, the charities say in evidence to an official inquiry. On Wednesday, new figures are expected to show a record number of claimants have had cash withheld.

The weight of evidence also supports controversial claims by Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, in the week he is due to be made a cardinal by the pope. “Something is going seriously wrong when, in a country as affluent as ours, people are left in that destitute situation and depend solely on the handouts of the charity of food banks,” Nichols said on Tuesday.

The Department for Work and Pensions acknowledged mounting concerns about the increasing use of benefits removal – a process known as sanctioning – by appointing a former Treasury official, Matthew Oakley, to look at how the DWP is operating its tougher regime. His review, due to be published next month, has been criticised for its limited terms of reference, but nevertheless it has been swamped by criticism of how the unemployed and the disabled are being driven off benefits, often due to poor communication, bad administration or unexpected expectations being placed on the vulnerable.

In evidence to the Oakley inquiry, the charities Drugscope and Homeless Link warn that “the current sanctions regime creates a culture of fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. That may in fact lead to further benefit dependency and harming engagement with employment services, as vulnerable clients fear having benefits removed and never being reinstated.

Crisis, the homeless charity asserts: “People who have been sanctioned are already on very limited incomes and face a significant further reduction, meaning they are left facing decisions between buying food, paying for heating and electricity and paying their rent. Debt is common and many face arrears, eviction and in the worst instances homelessness”.

In its evidence, Gingerbread, which lobbies for the rights of single parents, also warns: “While sanctions may be necessary for a small minority of claimants who deliberately evade their jobseeking responsibilities, the current high levels of sanctions across all [jobseeker’s allowance] claimants reveal a system in crisis and one that is systematically failing single parent jobseekers.” It says single parents are being told they must work full-time.

The National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers says “claimants are being sent on schemes with no discussion about whether they are appropriate to their needs and no opportunity for them to make representations about it . Adequate notification is also not routinely being given”.

It says some claimants have been told: “You need to spend 35 hours per week doing job searches and show evidence of 50 to 100 job searches or job applications per week.”

The evidence acts as a counterpoint to those who suggest welfare claimants are seeking a life on benefits. The government has been sufficiently embarrassed by the allegations that it has conceded it will look at a further inquiry into sanctions once the Oakley review has completed.

The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was 860,000, the highest for any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form. The figures due to be published on Wednesday cover the year to September 2013, and are likely to show a further increase in the number of claimants debarred from receiving benefits for as long as three years.

Disabled people are losing access to jobseeker’s allowance at the rate of 14,000 a month, the charities say. In total, the number of them having their benefits sanctioned each month has doubled since the regime was toughened in October 2012.

A spokesman for the DWP said: “The point of the review is to ensure the way we communicate with claimants is as clear and straightforward as possible. It is looking at where a sanction has been issued, the clarity of the information provided to the claimant about their sanction, and the options they then have including applying for hardship payments, and an explanation of the review and appeals process.”

Since 2012, benefit payments can be suspended for a minimum of four weeks and for up to three years where a claimant fails to take sufficient steps to search for work, to prepare themselves for the labour market or where they turn down an offer of employment or leave a job voluntarily.

A survey by Manchester CAB found 40% said had not received a letter from the jobcentre informing them of the benefit sanction, and almost a quarter did not know why they had been sanctioned.

Source – Welfare News Service   18 Feb 2014