Benefit reforms caused a spike in offending in a North-East town, according to police offers.
A rise in shop thefts and burglaries of garages and sheds in Darlington was a consequence of benefit sanctioning, according to PC Dave McKenna.
Many prolific offenders say sanctions – when benefits are restricted or completely stopped as a result of adjudged non-compliance on the part of the recipient – caused them to commit more offences.
PC McKenna, of the town’s integrated offender management unit, said:
“This kind of offending is mainly linked to drugs and substance misuse but sanctions are hitting and it’s a concern.
“Because these people often lead chaotic lifestyles, they struggle to meet contracts set down by the Department for Work and Pensions – they’re not likely to be able to get online to do job searches and they really need to be stable before employment.
“Offences like shoplifting go up when people have no money because it’s seen as a victimless crime.”
However, crime is now falling across the town, thanks in part to the efforts of the offender management unit which uses a multi-agency approach to tackle the causes of crime and address issues behind offending.
PC McKenna said:
“By having people here and targeting them in the right way, we can reduce offending and benefit the community by having less victims and less money spent on police, court and prison time.
“These offenders cause a great cost to the community in terms of the public purse and time spent dealing with them.
“Some go to prison and sometimes that’s the right thing but with these types of offences, they don’t go for long and come out in the same situation.
“Many have used drugs since they were young and usually don’t have family support or stable accommodation.”
Temporary Detective Inspector Andy Crowe believes the support offered by the team offers offenders an opportunity for offenders to break the cycle and make a new start.
Library staff are shouldering the burden of helping job seekers and benefit claimants deal with new welfare demands, a council leader has claimed.
Staff in Gateshead libraries are allegedly spending hours helping people to carry out job searches and fill in the online forms they are now required to complete by the Jobcentre Plus.
Today leader of Gateshead Council, Mick Henry, is asking his fellow authority leaders across the North East to unite in lobbying Government to demand payment for the work they’re doing to help people cope with the digital changes to the welfare system.
“It’s possible the job shop isn’t involving itself to the level of job search. Maybe the Government needs to think about paying us for that,” said Coun Henry.
“The libraries are there to provide a service to Gateshead residents. We aren’t complaining about that but we do think that maybe if our budgets are being severely cut then perhaps there is an argument that we are getting to be good at [helping with online tasks] and we have the facilities but perhaps not the resources to fund it.”
Changes to the welfare system mean that more people are now required to carry out and record their online job searches and fill in forms to process welfare payments over the Internet.
However, with Gateshead the 47th worst borough in the UK for digital skills, Coun Henry said the assumption that most people now have laptops and smart phones is misguided.
He said there was a growing sense Gateshead’s libraries and staff are being used to carry out functions the Job Centre Plus should be assisting with.
“It’s very easy to think that everybody has a computer but that is just not the case. We are finding that more and more people are actually using the library service to access job searches from what the statistics are showing us,” said Coun Henry.
“If we are trying to address what future needs might be and if there’s evidence that job search has a lot to do with that, then we would like to make sure that other Government agencies that are meant to be primarily involved with job search are doing it properly and working with us.”
Speaking at a meeting of Gateshead Council’s cabinet yesterday morning, councillor for Bensham, Catherine Donovan, said:
“We couldn’t have imagined how the focus of libraries has changed. People are very easily having their benefits sanctioned and the excuse that you couldn’t get to a computer doesn’t wash.
“We do need to be challenging the Jobcentre Plus on the amount of hours our staff are putting in to help these people.”
Unison branch secretary Dave Smith said the roll out of the Universal Credit trial in Manchester had led to people flooding to libraries to use computers and the situation in Gateshead was following the same trend.
He said: “Around 45,000 people used libraries in Gateshead last year and we know that people using it for ICT has increased. Libraries are being flooded by people on Jobseekers Allowance as they have got to upload CVs.
“Gateshead is the 47th digitally excluded neighbourhood in the country and libraries are key. Gateshead is investing in broadband but even if you have broadband there is a lack of skills and confidence. There is a huge amount of work and support needed to get people to use that connectivity as it comes to their houses.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Oct 2014
> The following was received by email. I’ve omitted the writer’s name and a couple of identifying locations – you never know who might be reading.
I am emailing in connection with the Archbishop of Westminster’s recent acknowledgement of the unfair JSA sanctions being imposed on thousands of people throughout the UK during the last year or more.
I am one of these statistics myself, having been sanctioned in early Dec 2013 for ‘limiting myself‘ as regards my job seeking. This was in the same week I had attended and BEEN SUCCESSFUL at a part-time job interview!
I also believe that, as I had just started on the Work Programme in the very same week that there was more going on than met the eye. I had to attend to sign on at a different office ( XXXX Road, – linked with ZZZZZ JC+) and the new advisor immediately started becoming intimidatory towards me because I wasn’t logging my job searches on the Universal Job match system online (hand writing it instead – which is my right).
I informed her that I had researched this and that it wasn’t obligatory to document jobsearches online. She was apparently attempting to find any reason to impose a sanction on me and stated that I hadn’t applied for 10 jobs in the last fortnight according to my contract.
This contract had been created without my consultation when I originally started signing on at ZZZZZ in Dec 2012. I stated this but it fell on deaf ears.
I have been in the process of following the complaints procedure ever since, having now written 3 complaint letters none of which has even been acknowledged never mind responded to – including one to the Director of Operations.
I am not signing on now, having found more part-time work this month and exceeding the 16hr limit. I intend to continue with appealing my unfair discrimination however regarding the 4 week sanction which left me without a penny to live on for *7 weeks in total*. The Hardship Payment application wasn’t processed until mid Jan 2014 (the sanction dated back to 23/11/13).
I applaud the Bishop for speaking out against this disgusting legislation and practice imposed by this uncaring coalition government. I believe this is a violation of people’s basic human rights – to be paid the barely sustainable JSA to be able to eat, pay bills and attempt to find work in an employment climate that is unfavourable for many, particularly when we are often discriminated against just for being unemployed in the first place nevermind the dearth of suitable jobs.
Shame on Cameron, Osborne, Duncan-Smith and the rest of them! These people have absolutely no idea what it means to live on the barest minimum, so I suppose it is no surprise to really expect them to give a damn.
Of course my case is just another piece of evidence of our broken welfare system. The sooner this is addressed the better. I feel for those who are reduced to food banks or worse in these unjust and unequal times. I happen to be fortunate enough to have a small amount of savings not to have to do so.