Last Night’s Benefits Crackdown by Channel Four’s Dispatches was essential viewing.
It came as this report (signaled by Unemployed in Tyne and Wear) was published.
100,000 Children Affected By Benefit Sanctions In 2013/14
A new report from a coalition of major UK Churches has revealed that around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14.
It also shows that in the same period a total of nearly 7 million weeks of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.
The new data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’sDispatches, entitled ‘Britain’s Benefits Crackdown’.
The report, entitled Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions, is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under Welfare Reform, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.
The PCS Trade Union also issued a press release on Monday.
Cost to claimants of benefit sanctions rockets by 3,000%
The cost to claimants of having their social security payments stopped under this government’s controversial sanctions regime has rocketed by 3,000%, analysis by the Public and Commercial Services union shows.
Using Department for Work and Pensions data, the union has calculated the value of jobseeker’s allowance payments sanctioned in the year to September 2014 (the latest for which figures are available) was £355 million, compared to £11 million in 2009/2010.
This massive rise explains why sanctions have been so closely linked to the increase in the use of foodbanks, the union says.
The new figures come ahead of a Dispatches investigation to be broadcast this evening into the government’s sanctions regime that was stepped up in October 2012.
Under the stricter system, the length of time sanctions can be imposed for has increased, with the minimum set at four weeks, rising to 13 weeks and up to three years.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This government is imposing much harsher penalties on people who rely on social security at the same time as seeking to blame and vilify them for being out of work.
“Sanctions do nothing to help unemployed people find sustainable jobs. They only poison the relationship between claimants and jobcentre staff, and they should be scrapped immediately.”
The Programme on Channel Four was very effective.
As the Mirror noted,
“In a probe for Channel 4’s Dispatches, two Job Centre whistleblowers tell how they were forced to “hammer” claimants with sanctions to meet Government targets. Alan Davies, who quit Leicester Job Centre, said: “They weren’t willing to look at them as human beings.”
There was also the case of a man, in considerable pain and previously on on Disability. Support Allowance, left to fend for himself on no money, after being sanctioned
Here is the information on the Dispatches site.
In October 2012, the coalition introduced a new stricter sanctions regime. Benefits can now be suspended for up to three years– or reduced indefinitely for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance.
Channel 4 Dispatches has investigated how the stricter sanctions regime affects some vulnerable claimants and has interviewed former Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff who claim that there are targets for sanctions despite the government’s constant assurances that there are no targets.
New exclusive figures:
- Latest figures show 93,000 children were affected by sanctions over 12 months.(opens in a new window) The DWP told us they do not recognise these figures.
- Of DWP ‘peer reviews’ of 49 deaths following sanctions or when claimants had their benefit cut, 40 were carried out following a suicide or apparent suicide.
- 33 of those reviews/enquiries resulted in ‘recommendations’ at national or local level.
The DWP has refused to provide details of the individual cases or the recommendations. They told Channel 4 Dispatches that they carry out reviews to work out if anything should have done differently. They say, carrying out a review does not automatically mean the department was at fault and that it would be highly inappropriate to publish private documents containing extremely personal information.(opens in a new window)
Channel 4 Dispatches has interviewed two whistleblowers from a Job Centre in Leicester who say they were subject to targets and had to “hammer” people. Both men have been named and identified on camera.
– Ian Wright, a former work coach, gave written evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry.
– Alan Davies, a former personal adviser, has never spoken publicly before.
Ian was sacked by the Job Centre, while Alan resigned. Both were given Performance Improvement Plans for not giving claimants enough Job Seeker’s Directions. These are the ‘early warnings’ before sanctions are handed out.
Ian Wright says: “It was the management’s policy to drive up sanctions. From my experience they’re more interested in getting the paperwork right and meeting targets than helping the claimants get the benefits that Parliament decree they should do and sometimes sadly vulnerable people miss out.”
“There are or were certain advisors who would try and wind up customers, not give them the full information.”
Alan Davies says: “The pressure was enormous. I just felt that what they were asking me to do was totally wrong. They were asking me to hammer people who were quite, in their own way doing the best that they can to get a job.”
“Well sanction them, to make sure if you’re not doing exactly what we want, they weren’t willing to look at them as human beings.”
“I felt basically it was both ethically and morally wrong.”
The DWP told Channel 4 Dispatches: “There are no targets for sanctions – in fact the number of sanctions has gone down over the past year.”
The Channel Four site adds the facts which contradict this bald-faced lying:
Since the tougher sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012, more than one and a half million benefit payments have been affected.(opens in a new window)
A DWP spokesperson told Channel 4 Dispatches:
“Every day Jobcentre Plus advisers work hard to help claimants into work – unemployment is falling and a record number of people are in work. Sanctions are only used as a last resort for the tiny minority who fail to take up the support which is on offer.”
We learnt then, from the DWP, that there are no “targets” for sanctions, just “aspirations”.
Ipswich Protest at New Sanction Factory: Maximus.