Benefit Sanctions and UN Report on Disability Benefit ‘Reforms’: Abuse Continues.
News Seeker flags this important article.
I realise even the mice in my street are concerned about Trump but this goes on…
Study reveals 17,596 of the 36,905 sanctions imposed were later overturned, with AM saying it raises questions about the accuracy of decisions
More than 17,000 people in North and Mid Wales had their benefits stopped forcing some to turn to food banks and loan sharks – only for the decision to be later overturned, it has been revealed.
A study by Plaid Cymru revealed 36,905 people were subjected to sanctions on their job seekers allowance (JSA) between 2012-2015 – but 17,596 of those sanctions were overturned on appeal or cancelled due to errors.
Plaid Cymru regional AM Llyr Gruffydd said the system meant often “vulnerable people” were being “left high and dry”.
Mr Gruffydd believes this questions the validity of the penalties, which are applied if claimants fail to complete agreed tasks with Job Centre staff.
These can range from not filling out enough job applications to failing to attend a prescribed number of interviews.
He said: “This relates to the Job Seekers’ Allowance as the Department of Work and Pensions has not released similar data on other benefits. However it paints a worrying picture of how sanctions – i.e. stopping benefits – can be applied without good cause and sometimes against people who are vulnerable and unable to represent themselves.
“These are the people who are then left high and dry, needing food banks, emergency loans or even loan sharks to tide them over. If more than half the cases end up without sanctions being applied it raises questions about the accuracy of the original decision.”
Between October 2012 and December 2015, 36,905 sanctions were applied in North and Mid Wales. Of those, 17,377 (47.1%) were cases where sanctions were actually enforced.
In a further 10,370 cases (28.1%) a decision was found in favour of the claimant and claims were reinstated. In 1,932 cases (5.2%) decisions were reserved because the claimant didn’t have a current claim and in 7,226 cases (19.5%) sanctions were cancelled due to errors, lack of information or the claimant stopped claiming before the sanction.
A recent Parliamentary select committee review of benefit sanctions heard from academics and employers.
One, Dr David Webster of the University of Glasgow, told MPs the DWP is sanctioning people “willy nilly”.
He added: “They say you have to apply for 30 jobs in a fortnight and you only apply for 29 and they sanction you. This is completely absurd.”
He also said it was unnecessary to run the system on the assumption most job seekers “don’t want to work”.
Mr Gruffydd added: “There’s plenty of evidence of people losing all their benefits at a stroke because of arbitrary sanctions.
“Job Centre staff have spoken out about being given targets in terms of sanctions and I’m concerned that the most vulnerable could be bearing the brunt of these.
“They are the easiest to sanction and are likely to have the least resources and support to fight back.”
And there is this as well (from the New Statesman, a good source of information and comment)
The government’s welfare reforms show “grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities”, according to a UN report.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities painted a picture of a benefits system with a blunt mandate to get claimants back into work, but with little consideration of human rights.
Instead, people with disabilities have found their living conditions deteriorate due to a toxic cocktail of cuts to housing benefit, tightened budgets for local services, and blunt assessments that do not take into account complex needs. The Bedroom Tax also made it harder to find suitable accommodation.
But perhaps the most damning part of the report is the change in culture it observes.
Because disabled people are more likely to rely on some form of welfare support, they are also more likely to be a target of scapegoating, it noted.
As the government rolled out its welfare reforms, “high-ranking officers” issued statements telling the public the changes were supposed to make the welfare system fairer to taxpayers and reduce benefit fraud.
The report continued:
Persons with disabilities have been regularly portrayed negatively as being dependent or making a living out of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers, who are paying “money for nothing”.
Its inquiry uncovered evidence that people with disabilities experience increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and attacks. This was despite the fact there was nothing to suggest people with disabilities were any more likely to commit benefit fraud.
In response to the criticism, the government pointed to its campaigners to improve public awareness. But the UN committee is unconvinced.
It concluded that the government could have foreseen that its welfare reforms would have a negative impact on people with disabilities. But instead, those claimants undergoing assessments “felt that they were merely processed rather than being listened to or understood”.