Government benefit changes mean people in Jarrow “live for weeks on nothing”, town MP Stephen Hepburn warned this week.
His comments came in a heated Parliamentary exchange this week with Employment Minister Esther McVey, during which Mr Hepburn attacked the Government’s welfare reforms and the way it treats people on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).
Mr Hepburn has obtained official Parliamentary statistics, indicating that more than half of those people in Jarrow whose benefits claims are reconsidered are unsuccessful.
Mr Hepburn said: “Can the minister explain why more than 50 per cent of benefit claimants in my constituency, whose benefits have been sanctioned, have had the decision overturned?
“In the meantime, they had to live week for weeks on nothing – unlike that lot over there, who stuff their nests.
“Is it not true that this scheme is nothing more than a con?
“The Government say that they are cutting benefits.
“They are cutting benefits, but they are taking them off the most vulnerable people in the country and leaving them out for ever.”
Mr Hepburn based his claims on new official Parliamentary figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, which indicate that more than 50 per cent of sanctions placed on JSA claimants in the Jarrow constituency have been overturned. The figures reveal that from October 22, 2012, to June 2013, there were 290 reconsiderations submitted to JSA claimants to sanctions imposed on them, with just over 51 per cent overturned.
However, in response, the Employment Minister rejected Mr Hepburn’s claims, stating: “There are a couple of points I need to answer, because what was said was inaccurate.
“The figure for the overturns is 10 per cent, not the high number the honorable gentleman alluded to.
“At the same time, people on sanctions are still on benefits and have an underlying qualification to them.
“The honorable gentleman is incorrect.
“Perhaps he does not like the fact that the number of people in work has gone up significantly under this Government, and the number of people needing to claim benefits has gone down significantly.”
> Perhaps he just doesn’t believe that to be true – especially in the north East…
Source – Shields Gazette, 26 June 2014
Benefit changes are driving jobless people in South Tyneside to the brink of suicide, Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn has warned.
Mr Hepburn revealed he had recently met two people contemplating suicide within a few days of each other.
One of them, a man, had just been discharged from hospital after swallowing 60 tablets in an attempt to kill himself.
The other, a woman, told him she thought daily about taking her own life because of her struggles with benefits.
That led to Mr Hepburn alerting several agencies and asking them to keep an eye on the woman.
His stark warning comes as one South Tyneside clergyman reports on a drastic rise in the number of food parcels being distributed in the borough.
Mr Hepburn claims recent legislation, such as the Bedroom Tax and other benefit changes, are driving people to despair.
He said: “I have never known such a terrible time for people on benefits. It seems worse than the Thatcher years.
“I met this man and woman within a few days of each other, and both were contemplating suicide because of problems with their benefits.
“A woman told me she was thinking of taking her own life, and just two days later, I met a man who was just out of hospital after taking 60 tablets while in a state of despair.
“Basically, people right at the bottom, who cannot get a job and are on benefits, are getting hammered.
“Both these people want to work, but there’s little or nothing on offer in the local jobcentre.”
Mr Hepburn added: “People are dealing with the bedroom tax or are disabled and are being told they have to work or are coping with some of the many other benefit changes introduced by this Tory-led Government.
“I have never known it so bad that I have had to meet two people talking about committing suicide inside one week.
“It feels like we are going backwards to the days of the Poor Laws.”
> I think the planned destination is even further back – a return to feudalism, no less.
Mr Hepburn has asked the relevant agencies to help the two constituents he met over the last week.
The Reverend Roy Merrin, of Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow, also believes that some people on benefits are under “extreme pressure”.
He said organisers of the food bank run by Churches Together in South Tyneside have recently noticed a significant rise in demand.
Mr Merrin said: “Throughout last year as a whole, a total of 534 food parcels were distributed in South Tyneside, but a total of 320 parcels have already been given out in just the first four months of this year.
“If those figures are translated throughout the rest of the year, the demand is going to be significantly higher.
“These are proven statistics, and there is pressure on some people, partly because of changes to the benefits system.
“I know from people coming to the church that they are experiencing difficulties because of the tightening-up of benefit regulations.”
Source – Shields Gazette 09 May 2014