Benefit sanctions: ‘Britain’s secret penal system’.
Britain’s Secret Penal System.
This is absolutely excellent – thanks Jim.
The Sanctions system is something hanging over all us.
A worry to us, a temptation for abuse for those in a position of power.
And mainly: a massive source of destitution and misery.
We already live on the absolute minimum.
People who count what a container of milk costs, who hang around for the cheap bread at the end of the day, who have to show evidence of our ‘job search’ at every turn, who have to put up with being lectured and patronised, who read the crap in the press about us loafers. Who worry, and worry, about being penalised and losing benefits.
Who see the sisters and brothers living in the streets, sanctioned without resources, begging – every single bloody day!
Who are unable even to leave the country to go ‘abroad’ – like under some kind of Stalinist regime – without losing benefits.
Who have to trudge to Liddle to buy our lumpfish caviar, fresh lobster and Prosecco.
Okay….. I made the last bit up.
Anyway this bloke nails the whole thing.
From Bella Caledonia.
Stuart Rodger interviews Dr David Webster, the Glasgow-based academic who charts the full horror of Tory benefit sanctions – which fine more people for being poor than are fined in Magistrates courts
While the Tories like to prevaricate and evade on the causes for the dramatic rise in foodbank use in Britain over the past six years, the statistical evidence is unequivocal.
The Trussell Trust – the leading provider of foodbanks in Britain – claim that the highest proportion of users, at 28%, cite benefit delays as their reasons for referral. Corresponding with the rise of physical hunger has been the level of psychological distress – with DWP staff now being given ‘suicide guidance’ when dealing with despairing claimants.
The benefit-related problems in question are, in many cases, sanctions. These have long been part of the system, but the passing of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 brought in a much stricter regime, with some claimants being sanctioned for as long as three years.
They soon became a common topic of discussion after the news of the death of David Clapson – a diabetic former soldier left with an empty stomach and a cut-off refrigerator where he left his insulin. With sanctions causing such widespread misery, no wonder the DWP issued fabricated personal stories promoting sanctions, in a Ministry-of-Truth like twist.
One academic who has been taking sanctions to task, however, is Dr David Webster, of Glasgow University. He has memorably described benefit sanctions as ‘Britain’s secret penal’ system.
His remarkable observation is that, once you crunch the numbers, the number of benefit sanctions being inflicted on claimants – at over 1 million – is now higher than the number of fines imposed by Magistrates and Sheriff courts throughout Britain, at around 850,000, and the amount of money is measurably greater.
Meeting with Webster in his elegant, semi-detached Victorian house in Glasgow’s southside, he tells me that he regards this system as a ‘third-rate form of justice’. What stands out for him, he has written, is that the decisions are made in secret, without any open system of transparency or accountability:
‘Decisions on guilt are made in secret by officials who have no independent responsibility to act lawfully – since the Social Security Act 1998 they have been mere agents of the Secretary of State. These officials are currently subject to constant management pressure to maximise penalties. And as in any secret system, there is a lot of error, misconduct, dishonesty and abuse. The claimant is not present when the decision on guilt is made and is not legally represented.’
Webster sees it as a basic violation of the principles of a liberal democracy: ‘The civil liberties alarm bells haven’t been triggered – because it’s been done step by step by step. But of course that’s what happens when liberties are taken away, they don’t all go at once.’
Talking about the historical development of welfare reform, he says ‘the biggest increase in penalties was the 2012 Act… That’s what created this anomaly where these secret administrators can impose penalties higher than the Magistrates courts.’
Read More here.
‘The trouble with the sanctions system is that it’s so vicious that it undermines people… It makes them ill, destroys their resilience in all sorts of ways, lose their self-confidence. It’s immensely damaging. So I feel very angry about it.’