Labour Pledge to Stop ‘Trivial’ Benefit Sanctions.
Pledge on benefits sanctions ahead of election (22nd April).
LABOUR has pledged to stop people being stripped of benefits for “trivial” reasons, blaming the practice for the surging numbers at food banks.
The Opposition said it would abolish targets allegedly introduced at jobcentres for the number of sanctions – claiming that was leading to unfair punishments.And it promised clear guidance to ensure vulnerable people – carers, pregnant women, the mentally-ill and people at risk of domestic violence – do not lose benefits.
The latest figures show almost 19,000 sanctions were imposed in Bradford in just two years, since the rules were toughened, normally for four weeks for a first offence.
Ministers say the punishments target people who dodge jobcentre appointments or avoid finding a job, to tackle a “something for nothing” culture.
But MPs have highlighted examples of claimants who have been docked money after missing appointments because they were bereaved, sick, or looking after children.
Interviewed by the Telegraph & Argus, Rachel Reeves, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, said: “When staff have pressure to sanction people, to reach their numbers, then you end up with sanctions for trivial reasons.
“That’s why we will get rid of targets and we will also give jobcentres guidance about vulnerable people.
“So, if it is a pregnant woman, or a mum with young kids, or someone with mental health problems, those people should not be sanctioned.”
Ministers have denied there are targets for sanctions, but do record the number imposed in each jobcentre district – with a “direction of travel” column, comparing to the previous month.
A Conservative spokesman defended sanctions, arguing the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies had found tighter conditions for benefit claimants had had “some success” in encouraging work.
But the Liberal Democrat manifesto also promises changes, saying: “We will ensure there are no league tables or targets for sanctions issued by jobcentres and introduce a ‘yellow card’ warning, so people are only sanctioned if they deliberately and repeatedly break the rules.”
This does not go far enough.
We need an end to the whole Sanctions Regime.
Get rid of the Unemployment Business!
But it’s a start……
David Ellesmere, Labour Candidate for Ipswich, backing March anti-Sanctions Picket at Ipswich Jobcentre.