Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘sanctions regime

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.

Stop Workfare!

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.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 23, 2015 at 11:26 am

Ben Gummer, Ipswich Tory Candidate, Backs Sanctions Regime for Claimants.

Gummer LetterGum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Gummer Raises a Pint to Punishing the Poor.

 

Gummer Backs Sanctions Regime.

In reply to a recent letter (23rd of March – above) protesting at the sanctions regime for Benefit claimants Mr Ben Gummer, Ipswich MP and now parliamentary candidate for Ipswich (Conservative) says this:

“I must be honest with you from the outset, however, I support the changes the current government has made to welfare, including sanctioning those who break the conditions for Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA).”

Gummer talks of how the “sanctions regime has been made as fair as possible.” He asserts that, “it is not designed to catch people out or to make life unreasonably difficult.” It will, apparently, “ encourage behaviour that is ultimately in the claimant’s interest”. Why? It “will help the get a job – by discouraging behaviour unhelpful to their prospects”.

There is, he continues, an equitable punishment system in place. People get one level of reprimand for being late for an appointment, another for not turning up the Mandatory Activity Scheme.

Gummer sugars the pill: “small mistakes are therefore relatively lightly dealt with”, and that “all decisions are based on impartial facts”, by a decision-makers high above the Work Coaches.

DWP judges, no doubt schooled in the tradition of King Solomon, and Tribonian (I add the latter as Gummer is both a gentleman and a classical scholar), are in charge of the process.

There is an “appeals” system to boot. The fact that “about 40% “ of the sanctions decision are “revoked” demonstrates how fair the initial decision-making process is.

Gummer believes that the sanctions regime’s aim is to “get people into work by encouraging the kind of behaviour that will make an employer wants them”. He asks, “Why should working people in Ipswich keep funding someone who has the chance to get a job but who simply decides not to work?”

Indeed: not only are the DWP the wisest of lords of the law, but they also have the ability to see that when somebody turns up late for an appointment it’s because they have decided “not to work”. Perhaps they look a certain way, shifty, out to get funding from ‘hard working families’.

Punishment works. Honestly. Among with other (unspecified) “measures” “are succeeding in getting people into employment”. They save people from a “life of unemployment” and let them “fulfil their potential”.

Ipswich Food Banks are full of people fulfilling their potential…..

Ben Gummer’s Direct Link to the DWP:

Message to the Labour Party: We need to Get rid of the Benefits Sanctions Regime. Full Stop.

Hat-tips: Another Fine Mess and Enigma.

Labour Pledges on Benefits:

A Labour government would tackle the root causes of the increase in the use of food banks across the UK, with the party to pledge that they “can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society”. Shadow ministers will promise to solve jobcentre benefit delays, halt the proliferation of benefit sanctions, and address low pay in a five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people forced to turn to food banks.

They will cite Trussell Trust statistics showing that nearly a million people used food banks in 2013-14, figures that are generally assumed to underestimate the number of people who went hungry as a result of food insecurity over the period.

Labour will promise a cross-government approach to end what it calls the “chaos of food policy” under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and will say that a Labour administration will make tackling food bank dependency a specific ministerial responsibility.

A target would be set to reduce the number of people who cite delays in benefits being processed as the prime reason for using food banks. Benefits typically take around 16 working days to process, although backlogs mean many disability benefit claimants have waited for several months.

Studies have shown that benefit sanctions – when payments are stopped for alleged rule infringements – are the prime reason for between 10% and 30% of food bank users being referred for food aid.

Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.

It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.

Ending ‘targets’ (which the DWP under their Masters’ instructions lie their way away out of existence in any case), and a vague commitment to deal with ‘benefit sanctions’ is not enough.

What is wrong is not just their ‘proliferation’ but the rotten system that has left one in five claimants punished.

Frankly we don’t need reassuring bed-time words that, “Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”

What we need: The benefit sanctions regime should be scrapped

(we appreciate that Frances uses Ipswich Unemployed Action’s phrase, benefit sanctions regime)…

I am not sure how we reached the point where we need an inquiry to establish that stopping a person’s benefits to the level that they can’t feed themselves or their children may be wrong. But here we are, it seems. The recent MPs’ inquiry into the coalition’s benefits sanction system released its findings on Tuesday – a catalogue of cruelty with footnotes to add details of the claimants who have been starved.

The report is damning. As it should be. We have watched a system develop in which it is normal for ordinary men and women to be thrown by their own government into financial and psychological crisis. The scale is staggering. More than 1 million jobseekers had their unemployment benefits stopped last year – and, as the report states, the government has failed to prove this is not “purely punitive”.

Who exactly are we punishing? A disabled, single mother described to the committee the day she was sanctioned for missing an appointment because a flare-up of her hip condition meant she was physically unable to walk or drive. Despite explaining this to The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), she was told she’d receive no money for four weeks. The sanction remained in place for almost three months.

Exactly right: we should boil with rage that somebody is left at her wits’ end because of a punishment more that’s more like a court’s fine for criminal activates than the workings of a welfare system.

This is not being done to the middle classes with savings in the bank. Or those with power who are used to navigating a complex system. It is being done to the people who are already struggling – where a hardship fund exists but the application process is designed to be too difficult for vulnerable people to understand. Or, as the report states, making it so “the people potentially most in need of the hardship system were the least likely to be able to access it”.

Doubleplus right: this is being inflicted on people (and most of us know them, or are them) who have no resources. The bastards are making our sisters and brothers suffer to fit in with Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to ‘reduce’ welfare dependency’. They are pawns in his game.

The MPs’ call that an “independent review of benefit sanctions is urgently needed” seems almost polite for what is going on here. People are literally starving and their crime is that they dare to be poor and unemployed.

It is no surprise that the report concludes there is limited evidence that benefit sanctions actually help people find work. A jobseeker system that has sanctions at its centre is founded on the lie that the unemployed are too lazy to look for work unless they are threatened. The DWP acts as if it is training disobedient dogs.

Stopping the money people need in order to eat is not the purpose of government. The benefit sanctions regime should be scrapped – but let’s not stop there. The culture that created them needs shredding to pieces.

This is the kind of ‘equality’ we are now living in: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” (Anatole France).

To conclude the article of Frances Ryan:

Tripleplus right: Get rid of the regime and bring the authors of this system to justice!

 

 

Complete Review of Vicious and Arbitrary Benefit Sanctions Needed Says MPs’ Report.

Get Rid of the Sanction Regime!

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.

Independent review of benefit sanctions urgently needed, say MPs

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.

Comment here: Work and Pensions Committee finds no evidence that sanctions help benefit claimants into work

More directly: Benefit sanctions: the 10 trivial breaches and administrative errors.

Read this and Weep:

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.

A typical example is the following anonymised list of sanctions reported by food bank clients to the Trussell trust charity:

  1. Man who missed appointment due to being at hospital with his partner, who had just had a stillborn child.
  2. 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.
  3. Man who carried out 60 job searches but missed one which matched his profile.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. One man sanctioned for attending a job interview instead of Jobcentre Plus – he got the job so did not pursue grievance against the JCP.
  9. Man who requested permission to attend the funeral of his best friend; permission declined; sanctioned when he went anyway.
  10. A diabetic sanctioned and unable to buy food was sent to hospital by GP as a consequence.

Sometimes sanctions have a bizarre, nightmarish quality, such as this one, reported by Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea food bank and cited in a recent Church Action on Poverty report:

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.

Or this one, cited on the A Selection Of Especially Stupid Benefit Sanctions tumblr website (and taken from a local newspaper report)

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.

More on site.

It makes you boil with rage.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 24, 2015 at 11:40 am

Against Benefit Sanctions: National Protests take off

Ipswich Protest Outside JobCentre.

What struck protestors immediately is how many people talked to us about being sanctioned, having to survive on practically no money, and how impossible the appeal system is.

You don’t have to do any extensive research to find out about the hardship the system is causing – not only to claimants, but to their children, as one person told us in sad detail.

We need to get rid of the arbitrary power of the Work Coaches, and the whole sanctions regime.

Anti-cuts activists protesting outside the DWP offices on Chesterton Road, Cambridge. Cambridge News

Protestors gathered outside the Jobcentre in Williamson Square to oppose the cuts implemented by the Government.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Photo by James Maloney

Protestors gathered outside the Jobcentre in Williamson Square to oppose the benefits sanctions implemented by the Government (Liverpool Echo).

Sanction demonstrators in Wesley Square.

Hartlepool.

Southampton.

More (a lot more!)  on National Day of Action Against Sanctions Facebook.

Friday 20th  Peter Lazenby

TRADE unionists and activists targeted dozens of jobcentres yesterday in a national day of action to protest against appalling coalition benefits sanctions which have thrown 1.2 million people into destitution.

Demonstrators took to the streets across Britain to protest against a system which persecutes the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people — driving dozens to suicide.

The protests were organised by Unite Community, a section of the general union for people not in traditional workplaces, which said it was delighted with the response.

And the union was joined by supporters of other anti-sanctions campaigns, including the People’s Assembly.Unite Community national organiser Liane Groves said 78 actions took place across the country.

In Teesside in England campaigners staged a rolling programme of protests targeting jobcentres in Redcar, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Thornaby and Hartlepool.

Speaking in Middlesbrough, Tracy Harvey, Unite Community equality officer for Teesside, said: “Thousands of people are being sanctioned every month.

“Suicide rates are skyrocketing as people struggle with debts.”In Chesterfield 60 protesters staged a “die-in” at the town’s jobcentre.

A protest also took place on Merseyside, where trade unionists are campaigning for the ousting at the general election of West Wirral Tory MP and Employment Minister Esther McVey, who has been responsible for implementing benefit sanctions.

Wirral TUC secretary Alec McFadden said his branch “fully supports the day of action to stop benefit sanctions.

“We also redouble our efforts to sack Esther McVey.”Other centres targeted included Birmingham, Hartlepool, Leeds, Halifax, Merthyr, Kent, Cardiff, Manchester and Liverpool.

In London a series of events culminated in a two-hour demonstration at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at Caxton House.

Gill Thompson, sister of ex-soldier David Clapson who died starving and destitute in 2013 after being sanctioned for missing a meeting, handed in a 211,822-name petition at the DWP urging the Prime Minister to investigate benefit sanctions.

She said: “I want to know how ministers who state everything is done to support the vulnerable can justify their actions leaving people destitute, driving them to foodbanks, and leading to starvation and death. “Do we want to live in a society where the vulnerable are victimised? I certainly do not.”At many of the jobcentre protests victims of sanctions told of their experiences.

After yesterday’s London demonstration at the DWP, Liane Groves said: “We have been able to highlight the cruelty of sanctions and the effects they are having on the lives of ordinary people.

“One hundred thousand children are in families where their parents have been sanctioned and in the sixth-richest country in the world it is totally unacceptable that children are going hungry because their parents are unemployed.”

Morning Star.