The report below in today’s Guardian shows that nobody can ignore the crisis caused by the ‘Sanctions Regime’.
A drive to ‘get’ benefit claimants, to make their lives a misery, to ‘force’ them into jobs that are not there, to spy on our every move, has meant what?
It’s meant acts of wanton cruelty, people left without the basics of life, food shelter, their children hungry and distressed, people driven to despair…
That’s the Liberal-Conservative Coalition’s most enduring legacy.
We call for an expansion of this review to include the prosecution of those responsible for causing great hardship to claimants, the criminal investigation of those committing fraud against claimants in the DWP, and for the government Ministers in charge of the sanctions regime to be brought to Justice.
Cross-party report comes amid concerns that financial penalties have been issued inappropriately and caused hardship and destitution.
A wide-ranging independent review of the government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime is urgently needed to address widespread concerns that it is unfair, excessively punitive, and does little to help people get into work, according to a cross-party committee of MPs.
The MPs’ report follows a short inquiry undertaken amid public concern that sanctions were being imposed inappropriately, causing hardship, destitution and ill-health, and routinely forcing jobseekers to rely on food banks to survive.
Sanctions are financial penalties, stopping claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks for apparent breaches of jobcentre rules, such as missing appointments or failing to carry out enough job searches.
The committee chair, Dame Anne Begg, said: “No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where they are at risk of severe financial hardship to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.”
The committee also recommends the creation of a body similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission which would investigate all cases where an individual dies or kills themselves while in receipt of working-age benefit. The inquiry was set up partly in response to a petition signed by over 200,000 people shocked by the death of diabetic former soldier David Clapson, who died penniless in July 2014, 18 days after sanctions were imposed on him.
The recent MPs’ inquiry into sanctions heard copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.
Man who missed appointment due to being at hospital with his partner, who had just had a stillborn child.
Man sanctioned for missing an appointment at the jobcentre on the day of his brother’s unexpected death. He had tried to phone Jobcentre Plus to explain, but could not get through and left a message which was consequently not relayed to the appropriate person.
Man who carried out 60 job searches but missed one which matched his profile.
Man had an appointment at the jobcentre on the Tuesday, was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack that day, missed the appointment and was sanctioned for nine weeks.
Man who secured employment and was due to start in three weeks. He was sanctioned in the interim period because JCP told him he was still duty bound to send his CV to other companies.
Young couple who had not received any letters regarding an appointment that was thus subsequently missed. Their address at the Department for Work and Pensions was wrongly recorded. They were left with no money for over a month.
One case where the claimant’s wife went into premature labour and had to go to hospital. This caused the claimant to miss an appointment. No leeway given.
One man sanctioned for attending a job interview instead of Jobcentre Plus – he got the job so did not pursue grievance against the JCP.
Man who requested permission to attend the funeral of his best friend; permission declined; sanctioned when he went anyway.
A diabetic sanctioned and unable to buy food was sent to hospital by GP as a consequence.
We had a number of customers who had been sanctioned including one guy who had been sanctioned for being late for his appointment at the jobcentre because the queue was so long it took him to past his appointment time to be seen. He was sanctioned even though he had arrived at the jobcentre in plenty of time.
You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the jobcentre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.
The consequences, however can be severe. One claimant, Glenn McDougall, recalled his experience of being sanctioned three times in written evidence to the work and pensions committee inquiry:
On the first occasion I cancelled a jobcentre appointment to go to a job interview. It was short notice however I phoned the jobcentre to inform them and was assured on the phone that it was ok. I was sanctioned two weeks JSA. I appealed this and was found to be in the right and the money was paid to me, which was great, but in the interim I had to go two weeks without a penny to my name. I missed other job interviews because I had no money for transport and went without food, electric and heating for some of that time. It was a cruel punishment issued arbitrarily, had a negative impact on my jobseeking and diminished my respect for the benefit system massively.
The committee heard that claimants with learning difficulties, were especially vulnerable to sanctioning. Here’s an example provided by the charity Mencap:
AP has a learning disability and was given 30 job searching actions every week after he applied for JSA. These actions included accessing UJM [universal job match] every week. However, he did not have the IT skills necessary to do this and was not given support by JCP [Jobcentre Plus] to do this. He had, however, still been pro-active in applying for jobs. He showed the JCP several pages of handwritten job notes. They would not accept these as they were handwritten and not using UJM. He was then sanctioned. Given his lack of IT skills and the lack of IT support by JCP, Mencap argues that handwritten notes are a reasonable adjustment. He had already been sanctioned by JCP several times.
These are a list of GE 2015 election fraud MPs who cheated to win their seats. Their twitter names are included in this post and we suggest people remind them of what they’ve done. You might also like to add in @theresa_may to any tweets you make. The twitter details are collated at the end… Continue Reading Apparently they’re Liars & Cheats but they’re […]