Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘sanctions

Workfare Returns and Benefits Sanctions Shoot Up.

with 117 comments

Poundland has been criticised for employing jobseekers, without pay, for up to two months under a deal with the government.

Several of those who have worked on the scheme told the Guardian they had worked up to 30 hours a week for at least three weeks stacking shelves in Poundland. They were told that the work experience was voluntary but one said: “I had no say in it really.”

It’s not clear how many jobseekers have been used by Poundland under the scheme as the government said it did not collect information centrally and the work experience was managed locally by jobcentres across the country. However, one store in Bolton has taken on 21 placements since last August, according to information provided in response to a freedom of information request by the Boycott Workfare pressure group.

 

Origin of the story,

Is Poundland using unpaid workers again? Graduate says he’s stacking shelves for free on ‘demoralising’ Government work scheme

JOB CENTRE TOLD HIM AND NINE OTHERS TO COMPLETE SIX WEEK PLACEMENT IN BOLTON SHOP

* GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE *

Poundland has denied using unpaid workers to stack shelves in its stores, directly contradicting a source who has told Graduate Fog that he and nine others are currently working for free in the chain’s Bolton store, in placements set up by his local job centre.

This website has spoken to Billy (not his real name), a recent graduate from the University of Central Lancashire, who says he has been told by his local job centre that he must work for free at the discount retailer for 30 hours a week for six weeks. Billy and nine others are required to wear black, unbranded polo shirts, black trousers and black shoes when working in Poundland’s stores, all provided by the job centre. 

familiar snip

Of 10 unpaid workers at that store, Billy says eight are under 25 years old. One of the older pair has 27 years’ experience as a teacher. All are on the DWP’s ‘Work Experience Programme’. Billy told us:

“I was so excited to graduate from university but, one month on, I’ve never felt so low. Having struggled to find paid work, three weeks ago I signed on to Universal Credit, and I’ve been told to do unpaid work experience stacking shelves at Poundland. There are 10 of us in our branch working 30 hours a week, and none of us is being paid a penny by Poundland. I hate it and have no idea what this is supposed to be teaching me. I’m not learning anything and I can’t work out why taxpayers are subsidising my unpaid work for a hugely profitable company.

“I don’t have a set schedule. They just literally tell me to come in. Monday 26th June was my first day, I worked from 2:30-8:30pm. There were five of us in total. Once we completed the day we were told to come in again on Wednesday from 2:30-8:30pm. It’s not set hours and days but we have to do 30 hours a week for 6 weeks. We have been given black polo shirts to wear during our shifts. They’re the exactly same as the uniform the regular Poundland staff wear, but without the Poundland logo.

“I am keen to get on and apply for a jobs in my chosen industry, but working for nothing is so demoralising that it’s hard to stay motivated. I can’t understand how the politicians think unpaid work is a solution to youth unemployment. The quality of these placements is poor and they lead nowhere. Those of us who do them end up exhausted and miserable, and I suspect we’ve probably replaced a few paid workers too, who will be missing out on the shifts we now cover. Meanwhile, Poundland must be laughing all the way to the bank. The scheme needs shutting down. The only people benefiting from it are Poundland.”

Since graduating this summer with a 2:1 in Film and Media Studies, Billy has been living at home with his dad, who has bipolar disorder, his mum, who is a carer, and his brother who is also looking for work. The whole family is struggling financially and Billy says: “We all feel trapped”.

Meanwhile….

Benefit Tales posts,

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on job seekers has shot up by 50% in the space of six months, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

The number of sanctions imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit rose from 18,994 last July to 33,860 in December, before falling back to the 30,000 mark by March this year.

In the six months to March, the most recent month for which data is available, the number of sanctions had risen by 50%.

“It is a matter of real concern that the number of people on Universal Credit being sanctioned is increasing,” shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood said.

“This data shows further evidence of the Tory government letting vulnerable groups down, fuelling poverty and even destitution in the UK.

“A recent Public Accounts Committee report suggested that sanctions are being ‘applied inconsistently’ and used as a ‘blunt instrument’.”

Politics.co.uk has combined both published and unpublished data from the Department for Work and Pensions. While figures for the old Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit are routinely published, recent data for the newer Universal Credit system is much harder to come by.

The true sanctions figures are actually likely to be higher, as the Universal Credit data excludes claimants in numerous parts of the country. (also, these figures don’t include sanctions on people with disability  benefits)

Originally on the Politics Co site: Benefit sanctions shoot up 50% in six months

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm

On Food Banks: Don’t Institutionalise Food Poverty.

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Image result for food banks

Institutionalised Food Poverty.

The will to feed people who are hungry is one of the most basic reasons to have some hope in human beings.

The ‘Better Angels of our Nature’, showing sympathy for others, still comes out, for all that we are pushed to hate and selfish ideas.

But…

Making concern for other people, or – let’s be honest –  a dose of pity,  a substitute for the right to social security is not a good idea.

We don’t have to be the philosopher Kant to see that if eating is made conditional on the generosity of others, we are making people dependent on the Good Will of Others. Whether it’s done out of true moral obligation or from a wish to seem good, we are still dependent on others.

A right is something we claim against an institution, and stands the same for all, not provided by a market of charitable initiatives.

Our contributors and the papers are full of stories about the rise in Food Bank demand.

The idea of the Welfare State as a “safe home” for people in difficulty is replaced by concerns about the voluntary  provision of something to eat is weakened.

At the foundation of the Welfare State, Beveridge talked of ending Want,

Poverty was seen as the key social problem which affected all others. In 1946 the National Insurance Act was passed which extended the Liberal Act of 1911 to include all adults. This provided comprehensive insurance against most eventualities.

It provided sickness and unemployment benefit, retirement pension and widow and maternity benefit. It was said that social provision was made for citizens from the ‘cradle to the grave’, catering for their needs from their time of birth to their death.

Beverdige did not talk of bringing back 1930s Soup Kitchens.

But in the US, as this article pointed  out a couple of years ago, they never got away from the 30s level of ‘welfare’.

In the U.S., we take it for granted that government help is not enough to live on, that private charities and philanthropic donations fill the holes in income, housing and health care that our welfare system leaves gaping. Disaster relief, meals on wheels, homeless shelters — for us they’re just part of the economic landscape, the extra stitches in our safety net.

But in Britain, the idea of a significant portion of the population being fed, clothed and housed by private charities is genuinely new, at least in the post-war era, and the British haven’t decided how they feel about it. Are privately run social services a scandal of government neglect, or simply a country taking responsibility for its runaway spending?

 

This piece, in 2012,  makes some of the points we need to think about again.

Guardian 2012.

David Cameron recently said he “welcomed” the work done by food banks and, for many in his party, their growing presence is a happy embodiment of the concept of the “big society”. In a debate on food poverty earlier this year, Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for environment and food, described them as an “excellent example” of this in action.

For others, the growth is a reflection of a new approach to providing assistance to people in real need. Whereas previously this was a service that the state would have provided, now feeding large numbers of people who are not able to feed themselves is being subcontracted out to charities. Those who have scrutinised the progress of the Welfare Reform Act, say this move from state to charity reflects the general direction of travel.

Once these services move beyond the realms of state provision, there are potential problems – they lose neutrality, some uncertainty comes with initiatives that are volunteer-run, the food on offer is (despite the best efforts of the Trussell Trust) idiosyncratic, the religious environment in which food is provided raises questions for some recipients. It becomes charity rather than basic state support, and for many this brings a degree of unease.

Stephen Timms, shadow work and pensions secretary, says it is a “pretty worrying reflection of what’s going on in the country, when people are dependent on these charitable handouts. My worry is that we are really just at the start of cutting back the benefits system and already a large number of people are not able to to buy food for their families. This shouldn’t be happening on the scale that it is now happening.”

Manchester Labour MP, and former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green describes the growth of food banks as a disgrace. “I feel a real burning anger about them,” she says. “People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it’s humiliating and distressing.”

In fact what’s happened is that we have institutionalised food poverty. (Food banks don’t solve food poverty. The UK must not institutionalise them 2014).

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,

Minister silent as desperate DWP launches helpline for landlords and Allegations about “massaged” Benefit Sanction Figures made.

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Image result for David Gauke DWP

Gauke, Taking it Easy as DWP Descends into Omnishambles.

Parliament briefly heard of Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke  when he announced in Parliament in July that the state pension age will rise to 68 .

Since that time this is his last known statement of the Man,  as key policies of his government, which his Department is in charge of, such as Universal Credit, are in a condition worse than omnishambles.

6th August 2017

After a busy year so far, the summer recess comes as a welcome slow-down for most MPs.  There has been no shortage of drama in politics for the past couple of years and recent months have been no exception.  General elections tend to be somewhat exhausting and, on this occasion, it resulted in a less than conclusive result.

The General Election was then followed by a reshuffle and, on a personal note, I moved on from the Treasury to the Department for Work & Pensions.

The summer recess is a good opportunity for ministers in new departments to get their heads round new issues and attempt to get on top of their brief.  In my case, I am spending some of the period when Parliament isn’t sitting visiting DWP offices around the country, meeting staff and understanding the breadth of work undertaken by the department.  I am also spending plenty of time reading into the various subjects covered by the department – employment, disability benefits, pensions and so on.

This should, I hope, be helpful for the autumn when Parliament returns and we have the party conferences.

Much of the work is quite technical in nature but my previous ministerial experience is helpful, whether it is experience of a big operational part of government (I previously worked closely with HMRC), pensions policy (I worked on pensions tax policy when at the Treasury) or just an understanding of large parts of public spending (which was key when I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury).

Meanwhile, the constituency work continues with the correspondence and regular constituency surgeries.

Parliamentary recess is not a long holiday (a point MPs often make, somewhat defensively!) but it should enable us to recharge our batteries for a busy few months.

We imagine he in some quiet holiday retreat away from the world, ready to re-assume his pressing duties here, “David is a Patron of the Hospice of St Francis, the Watford Peace Hospice and the Three Rivers Museum.  He writes regularly for the Croxley, Rickmansworth and Chorleywood editions of My Local News magazines and The Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.”

Meanwhile while Gauke relaxes, the Residential Landlords Association announces,

 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a new helpline for landlords whose Universal Credit tenants will not communicate with them.

The new number 0345 600 4272 can be used by landlords who are unable to obtain the tenant’s co-operation to get DWP to supply information when it comes to enquiries about major payments –  such as a direct payment to the landlord.

This is a significant change as, before now, landlords were totally dependent on the goodwill of the tenant when it came to accessing information.

The new number can only be used by landlords in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out.

The official Universal Credit guidance says the landlord should:

  • In the first instance engage with their tenant about the issue.  The tenant has access to their own information via their online account and can share it with their landlord
  • If more assistance is required the claimant can ask to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative via their online journal, face to face or by calling the service centre and giving explicit consent
  • When contacting Universal Credit the claimant’s representative will be asked to confirm their identity so the case manager can speak to the landlord direct.

Earlier this summer DWP said it will address problems faced by landlords who house Universal Credit tenants following a meeting with the RLA.

RLA directors David Smith and Chris Town met with Caroline Dinenage MP, the new Minister responsible for housing cost support, to discuss issues including rent arrears and direct payments.

This came about after the RLA’s most recent quarterly survey showed 38% of landlords with tenants in receipt of UC had seen them fall into rent arrears in the past 12 months. With tenants owing an average of £1,600.

The RLA runs a course on Universal Credit, with dates currently available in Manchester and Leeds.

The other story the Gentleman of Leisure is avoiding is this:

The London Economic (TLE)

A freedom of Information request shows that new welfare reforms are allowing the government to distort the true figures of those sanctioned on welfare, disability and in receipt of pensions

The very latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) obtained by The London Economic in response to a freedom of information request I submitted show that new welfare reforms such as Universal Credit are allowing the true figures regarding people sanctioned to go grossly unreported.

Today 20 million people in the UK are claimants, 13.8 million are on a pension, and a further 6.8 million people are of working age.

The DWP has started, from August 2017, to publish a Quarterly Statistical Summary of information on the length of time over which a reduction in benefit due to a sanction lasts.

In this report, they say for the first time, the duration of sanctions to be implemented for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC), Jobseekers  Allowance (JSA) and Income Support (IS).

Furthermore, they say they are working on the methodology used to calculate sanction durations.

Yet, when you look at the Government’s own headline figures, a staggering 4.4 million people have been sanctioned up to 31 March 2017 and these figures probably underestimate the true number by a further 2 million under-reported sanctions, as Government figures do not include people sanctioned more than once; people who are presently challenging their sanctions or the huge number of people who have been successful in winning their appeals.

Moreover, Universal Credit is also helping the Government to massage the sanction figures downwards.

Rest of Story here.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 24, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Sanctions and Benefit Freeze Blamed for Rise in Food Banks Use and Growth in Mental Health Problems.

with 104 comments

From Ken,

Benefit sanctions are increasing hunger and depression not driving down unemployment

The UK is a fairly hostile environment to be unemployed, but some might say the approach is starting to pay off. After all, unemployment is currently at its lowest rate in 42 years, with 109,000 more people entering employment in the three months to April this year.

With numbers like that, some people might be wondering if aggressive tactics such as benefit sanctions are helping drive willfully unemployed people into gainful work.

Yet that is not what the public spending watchdog believes. Last year the National Audit Office – the independent body that monitors spending for Parliament – declared that benefit sanctions are inconsistently applied across the country and that withholding payments pushes claimants into hardship, increasing their chances of experiencing hunger and depression.

 Now, the latest report by Oxford University and the Trussell Trust food bank network has revealed that almost 80 per cent of food bank users had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months, meaning they could not buy enough food and/or had experienced entire days with nothing to eat.

The issue of price rises and insecure incomes are major factors in ‘food insecurity’.

The former justifies our call for an end to the benefits freeze.

The latter raises the issue of Universal Credit delays and Sanctions.

This is from the Report: Financial insecurity, food  insecurity, and disability: The profile of people receiving emergency food assistance from The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network in Britain  2017

  • Financial and food insecurity: Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week-to-week and month-to-month. 78% are severely food insecure (meaning they had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time – in the past 12 months), while over half could not afford heating or toiletries
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  • Price rises: 3 in 5 households had recently experienced rising or unexpected expenses, with 25% of these saying higher food expenses were to blame, confirming the impact of food inflation on squeezed budgets
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  • Housing: 28% of those who had experienced rising expenses said this was due to housing costs, such as rent or energy, going up. Tenants in private housing were more likely to find it difficult to keep up with rents than socially rented properties
  • Disability and mental health: Over 50% of households included a disabled person, consistent with the definition used in national surveys. 75% experienced ill health in their household. Mental health conditions affected people in 1/3 of households
  • Debt: 1 in 3 households were finding it difficult to make minimum monthly repayments on outstanding loans, and nearly 1 in 5 in debt owed money to payday lenders
  • The report found people were experiencing multiple forms of destitution. 50% had gone without heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, 50% couldn’t afford toiletries, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the last 12 months. Over 78% of households were severely, and often chronically, food insecure.
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Almost all households had experienced a drop in income in the past three months, unsteady incomes, or an unexpected expense or rise in expenses in the past three months.

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  • Benefit delays: Nearly 2 in 5 people were awaiting a benefit payment, with most of these waiting up to 6 weeks, though a fifth were waiting 7 weeks or more. A third of delays were for Employment Support Allowance payments, with people assessed as capable of taking steps to move into work in the future particularly at risk of needing a foodbank
  • Income shocks: 2 in 3 people had been hit by a recent ‘income shock’, with most experiencing sharp rises in housing costs or food expenses
  • Low income: The average income of households in the month before being referred to a foodbank was reported at around £320, with 20% of households still needing to pay housing costs. This falls well below low income thresholds, before and after housing costs, and is a fraction of the national average. 16% had no income at all in the last month
 Enigma adds this:

Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed

Exclusive: Benefit freezes and sanctions ‘are having a toxic impact on mental health’

Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people have soared by more than 50 per cent in the last four years as the impact of “harsh” austerity policies take their toll, The Independent can reveal.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said the Government’s reforms of welfare payments were to blame for the rise, as benefit cuts and sanctions “are having a toxic impact on mental health”.

New analysis of data from NHS surveys of GP patients shows that in March 2017, 15.2 per cent of unemployed people said they suffered from severe or extreme anxiety or depression.

This figure has increased steadily from 10.1 per cent in June 2013, and marks a sharper jump than rates of the conditions among the general population, which rose 20 per cent over the same period, from 3.4 per cent of people to 4.1 per cent.

“The devastating impact of the benefits cap for families with children, the freezing of benefits at a time of inflation, and the cutting of benefits for the disabled are putting claimants under terrible mental and financial strain,” said Janet Weisz, the UKCP’s chief executive.

“The constant threat of benefit sanctions only adds to the pressure.”

The austerity measure, widely recognised as a key driver behind forecasts of rising poverty to come, is expected to reduce support by £13bn by 2020, above the Government’s forecast of £9bn, according to research from the House of Commons Library.

People claiming benefits can have their payments cut or stopped entirely if they miss one job centre appointment. The minimum sanction period was increased from one week to four in October 2012.

About a quarter of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance received at least one sanction between 2010 and 2015, according to the National Audit Office, which warned last year that the Department for Work and Pensions is not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits.

These reports, signaled originally from the Independent, just about clinch the argument us lot have made here.

End the Benefits Freeze and the Sanctions Regime! 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions. Protests.

with 82 comments

Thursday: Outside Ipswich Jobcentre. 

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, child and outdoor

Interviewed on Radio Suffolk.

Benefit sanctions must be fought against

These sanctions are cruel and handed out for ridiculous reasons such as:

  • Arriving minutes late to a meeting
  • Not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job!
  • Missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close family member.

This has to stop.

Unite demonstration outside the Department of Work and Pensions in London watch the video here  – See more at: http://stagingui.unite.awsripple.com/growing-our-union/communitymembership/day-of-action-against-sanctions/default.aspx#sthash.QsxxyCRf.dpufTake other action
  • Share your story – we are looking for people who have been sanctioned to tell their story.
  • We want to show the reality and impact on people’s lives – show your support – share on Twitter and Facebook #No2Sanctions
JOIN US – Thursday 30 March

See More Here.

Welfare WeeklyThousands to protest against ‘cruel and ineffective’ benefit sanctions regime

Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action’ to stop benefit sanctions.

Activists from Britain’s biggest trade union Unite will tomorrow (Thursday) be protesting outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London, calling on the UK Government to stop it’s “cruel and ineffective” benefit sanctions regime.

Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action‘ to stop benefit sanctions.

Since May 2010, over 3 million people have been referred for a sanction 8 million times. Over 318,000 people have had their benefits cut or stopped completely in the last year alone, often for punitive and unfair reasons – such as being late for appointments with the jobcentre, or being too sick to ‘actively seek work’.

According to the food bank charity Trussell Trust, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17, including over 188,500 to children, with the most common reason for referral being problems and delays with benefit payments.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in Damian Green, DWP, Ipswich, Sanctions, Suffolk

Tagged with , ,

Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions (30 March) as Scottish Challenges to Tory Social Security Regime Grow.

with 53 comments

New Component

Thursday 30 March 2017  National Day of Action Against Sanctions (UNITE the Union).

JOIN US
More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Half a million people have had their benefits suddenly stopped by sanctions in the last 12 months.
That’s half a million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?

Benefit sanctions must be fought against

Please join an event near you on Thursday 30 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.

We will continue to add new actions on a regular basis, so please check back.

For further information please email your Unite community coordinator (see here).

 

You often wish that politicians, that is Westminster politicians, took these issues as seriously as they do in Scotland.

Morning Star (today)

SCOTTISH Labour unveiled plans yesterday to “kick the private sector out of our social security system,” branding the treatment of disabled and long term-ill benefit claimants under the Tory welfare regime “inhumane.”

The party will table amendments to the forthcoming Social Security Bill to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to rule out the involvement of the private sector and has urged the SNP to support its proposals.

Labour says that thousands of disabled people have experienced punitive assessments for the Tories’ personal independence payments (PIP), adding that the SNP’s decision to delay the devolution of welfare powers will mean that 140,000 Scots will still be assessed under the current system.

Last month, a Scottish government consultation on social security revealed a “strong consensus that services should not be delivered through the private sector or profit-making agencies, with the majority of respondents in agreement that social security should be delivered through existing public-sector or thirdsector organisations.”

Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said his party will seek to “use the new social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to kick the private sector out of our social security system.”

He laid into “these cruel and inhumane [PIP] assessments that have piled misery on vulnerable Scots.”

“Nicola Sturgeon failed to mention poverty once in her speech to the SNP conference. That tells you everything you need to know about her priorities,” he said.

He urged the First Minister to “work with Labour to use the new powers of our parliament” and abandon her preoccupation with Scottish independence.

Welfare Weekly (March the 17th) reports,

SNP Conference: Calls to scrap ‘draconian’ benefit sanctions regime

“The SNP does not believe we should be attacking the most disadvantaged in our society and completely rejects this benefits sanctions regime.

“The Tories need to realise this is the devastating consequences that removing the only source of income available has on real people and their families.

“It is extremely concerning that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health issues, are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime.

“The UK government must urgently scrap this punitive sanctions regime. The shocking findings of the National Audit Office illustrate the sheer unfairness and ineffectiveness of sanctions.

“The SNP has consistently done everything it can to mitigate the worst impacts of Tory welfare cuts spending £100m on protecting people – money we would rather invest in pulling people out of poverty.

“Our Government in Scotland continue to fight against the regime, for instance the Scottish Government have already secured agreement from the UK Government that the Scottish employment programme will not facilitate their benefits sanctions system.

“Scottish Ministers have been crystal clear that our services in Scotland must be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.”

The full text of the resolution reads:

“Conference rejects the punitive Tory benefit sanction regime; commends the creators of I, Daniel Blake for bringing the public’s attention to the cruel and callous reality facing tens of thousands of disadvantaged people across the UK; further notes with the concern the shocking findings of the National Audit Office of the scale and ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime; is concerned that the most vulnerable including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime, welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to make sure that the new Employment Programme, effective from April 2017, does not facilitate the UK Government’s sanctions system, and calls for the UKG to move urgently to scrap the unfair sanctions regime.”


This in an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Sanctions Regime Has Not Gone Away.

with 96 comments

Image result for benefit sanctions campaign

The Guardian today:

Benefit claimants are subjected to an unacceptable “postcode lottery” that can determine whether or not they are driven into poverty by sanctions, MPs have said.

A report by the public accounts committee found that some Work Programme providers and jobcentres withhold payments to twice as many people as others in the same area.

Sanctions are a punishment applied to benefit claimants adjudged to have infringed jobcentre rules. If claimants fail to turn up for appointments or to apply for enough jobs, officials effectively fine them by stopping their benefit payments for a minimum of four weeks, equal to about £300 for a claimant ov

The report by parliament’s spending watchdog, published on Tuesday, urges the government to review the use of financial penalties, which it finds “have increased in severity in recent years and can have serious consequences” such as forcing claimants into homelessness.

It says the Department for Work and Pensions has poor data with which to evaluate what works and is unable to estimate the wider impact of sanctions – including their overall cost or benefit to the public purse.

The MPs write: “There is an unacceptable amount of unexplained variation in the department’s use of sanctions, so claimants are being treated differently depending on where they live. It does not know whether vulnerable people are protected as they are meant to be. Nor can it estimate the wider effects of sanctions on people and their overall cost, or benefit, to government.”

A scathing report in November by the National Audit Office found sanctions varied “substantially” across the country.

BBC,

Benefits claimants face “unacceptable” variations in the number of payments being docked or removed entirely, depending on where in the UK they live, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee said those penalised for missing job centre appointments or other failings often faced an “appalling situation”.

It urged the Department for Work and Pensions to monitor variations closely.

The DWP Alternative News Factory  went into mass production:

The DWP said policies were “under constant review” to ensure fairness.

It added that recent figures showed the number of jobseeker’s allowance recipients facing sanctions had fallen by more than half in the past year.

Meanwhile, less than 1% of those receiving employment and support allowance had been penalised.

Meanwhile,

More than a million unemployed benefits claimants have to meet certain conditions, such as showing they are looking for work, to receive their payments.

An estimated 400,000 sanctions were imposed in 2015.

The committee said penalties had increased in severity and could have “serious consequences” such as homelessness.

It found the system encouraged some people into jobs but the DWP could not be confident about what sanctions worked best because its data was poor.

The committee’s report said: “There is an unacceptable amount of unexplained variation in the department’s use of sanctions, so claimants are being treated differently depending on where they live.

“It [the DWP] does not know whether vulnerable people are protected as they are meant to be.

“Nor can it estimate the wider effects of sanctions on people and their overall cost, or benefit, to government.”

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said: “Benefit sanctions have been used as a blunt instrument by government.

“It is an article of faith for the Department for Work and Pensions that sanctions encourage people into work.

“The reality is far more complex and the potential consequences severe.”

She added: “Some people who receive sanctions stop claiming without finding work, adding to pressures on other services.

“Suspending people’s benefit payments can lead them into debt, rent arrears and homelessness, which can undermine their efforts to find work.”

The DWP produced alternative facts,

A DWP spokesman said: “Our sanctions guidance is the same right across the UK, and the fact is the number of sanctions has more than halved in recent years.

“Sanctions are an important part of our benefits system, and are only used in a very small percentage of cases as a last resort when people don’t fulfil their commitment to find work.”

The DWP added: “We keep our policies under constant review to ensure that they continue to function effectively and fairly, and where we identify an issue, we act quickly to put it right.”

 Meanwhile,

Ministers accused of ‘sending vulnerable people to food banks’ by failing to act on promise to curb benefit sanctions

A trial of a ‘yellow card’ early warning system helped hundreds avoid a loss of benefits – but the Government has not agreed to extending it across the country.

Ministers have been accused of sending desperate jobless and disabled people to food banks by stalling on a promised reform to cut the huge number of benefit sanctions.

A “yellow card” system, which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to dock their benefits rather than imposing the punishment immediately, was pledged way back in October 2015.

A trial in parts of Scotland led to almost 500 people successfully explaining why they did not deserve the punishment after being accused of failing to meet commitments to actively look for work.

Yet the Department for Work and Pensions has refused to commit to introducing the early warning system across the country, insisting more research is needed.

Independent.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2017 at 12:43 pm