Claimants – know your rights on sanctions.
This very useful new leaflet, by UNITE and the Public and Commercial Services Union has been brought to our attention (original here).
Claimants – know your rights on sanctions.
KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS
- Always read your Jobseekers Agreement/Claimant Commitment – this will specify exactly what steps you need to take each week, what hours you are available for and how far you are expected to travel.
- It essentially acts as a contract; you can disagree with it if you think the steps are unreasonable.
- The JSA Regulations do not specify that claimants must keep written records of your job search.
- However, encouraging a claimant to keep a written record of the steps they have taken can help you to remember what you have done, and will help to build up a picture of the progress the claimant is making in their efforts to find work. (Labour Market Conditions Guide 2000)
The steps that are reasonable will vary from claimant to claimant and from week to week. In looking at whether the steps taken are reasonable, all the following circumstances should be taken into account:
- Your skills, qualifications and abilities;
- Your physical or mental limitations, including any time spent training in the use of aids to improve your prospects of obtaining or retaining employment;
- The time which has passed since you last worked and your experience;
- The steps you have taken in previous weeks;
- The effectiveness of those steps in improving your prospects of securing employment;
- Whether or not the steps taken improve your prospects of obtaining employment;
- Whether or not the steps taken reduce your prospects of obtaining employment; availability and location of any vacancies; (Labour Market
- Conditions Guide 203)
- The type and number of steps a claimant takes to find work may be affected by their ability or a health problem. For example, a disabled person may find it physically impossible to take the same steps as an able bodied person. However, they must still take whatever steps are reasonable allowing for their circumstances. (Labour Market Conditions Guide 204-205)
FIGHT SANCTIONS TOGETHER
The use of sanctions have massively increased in the last few years. The government have pushed more and more sanctioning in their belief that benefit claimants are scroungers that need to be punished into looking for work.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Unite, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, Unemployed Workers Centres believe that many claimants are unfairly sanctioned. The conditionality regime is designed to trip claimants up with increasingly unrealistic expectations of what counts as actively seeking work.
PCS, the union that represents jobcentre workers, opposes the punitive sanction regime and the Government’s obsession with punishing benefit claimants. PCS directly opposed sanctions in the recent Select Committee
report, which criticised DWP for “hitting the target but missing the point.”
PCS and Unite the union have been at the forefront of fighting changes in welfare attacks.
PCS members are put under extreme pressure to refer claimants for sanctioning; we are working to expose the Government lies on targets and working with other organisations to help claimants fight back.
NEW HARDER RULES FROM APRIL 2014
The DWP says that ‘looking for work should be a full-time job’. The Claimant Commitment involves ‘a strict compliance regime’, under which claimants can be required to undertake up to 35 hours a week of job searching, or any other activity a Jobcentre ‘job coach’ thinks is appropriate.
The Commitment will be even more oppressive than the existing set of sanctions that caused nearly 900,000 unemployed people to lose benefits – and the massive rise in food banks.
Other activities that a claimant may be expected to undertake will include ‘work-focused interviews’ whenever and wherever a jobcentre decides; ‘work preparation’ activities, which are designed to force those with sicknesses or disabilities into a ‘health care’ regime dictated by the jobcentre; and meeting a ‘work availability requirement’, where a claimant has to accept employment immediately, regardless of its suitability, or the level of pay and conditions.
There is no extra provision for the bus fares, internet and phone costs, or other expenses incurred looking for a job 35 hours every week.
Changes from 28th April 2014 include daily or weekly signing and 30 hours a week Workfare placements.
Whilst transport costs can be paid for attendance outside of the usual fortnightly signing, the new measures are clearly designed to catch claimants out and frustrate them off benefit.
If a claimant breaks any part of their Commitment, they will be subject to sanctions, which will mean a deduction, penalty or suspension of all their benefits.
A claimant receiving three sanctions can see their benefit stopped entirely for up to three years.
Sanctions can be medium or high level; medium level can result from things like failing to apply for the agreed number of jobs each week (even if there are no new jobs available), failing to turn up to a job interview, or even just being ‘sulky and uncommunicative’ in an interview .