Time to Rethink Benefits Sanctions
A breakdown of a report by Church Action on Poverty, Baptist Union of Great Britain, United Reformed Church, Methodist Church, Church of Scotland and Church of Wales calling on a full and independent review of the sanctions regime.
What are Benefits Sanctions?
To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must be both available to work and seeking employment. The terms of this requirement mean that you are under conditionality, from applying for jobs to attending meetings and/or courses.
If you fail to meet these requirements, your benefits will be stopped for anywhere between a month to three years.
These sanctions impact those receiving Job Seeker’s Allowance, and those deemed too sick to work in the medium term.
The Department for Work and Pensions administer these sanctions.
Benefit Sanction Statistics (UK Wide):
1,000,000 sanctions were imposed in 2014
500,000 sanctions are imposed annually before a judgment has even been made
500,000 sanctions were cancelled due to bureaucratic errors
Time to Rethink Benefits Sanctions: Findings of the Report
Sanctions aim to improve job-seeking behaviour, yet evidence proves that the introduction of stricter sanctions has not achieved this. As well as the ineffective impact of sanctions, they are not justified at the expense of human dignity.
– 100 people with severe mental illness who are deemed “unfit for work” by a GP are sanctioned each day.
– The failure of hardship payments as a safety net: Claimants must first ask friends and relatives for money, reducing economic empowerment. These payments are loans, repayable only by benefit income. They may not be given, even in cases where the claimant cannot afford food due to sanctions.
– Those with mental health problems have been disproportionately affected. Sanctions are most commonly imposed for missing a meeting, ordinarily due to the symptoms of mental health conditions. Claimants are thus being punished for the symptoms of their illness.
– The Department for Work and Pensions guidance continually recognizes that health will inevitably deteriorate due to sanctions.
– 100,000 children were adversely affected by sanctions in 2014, through no fault of their own.
– Social security is designed to protest the poorest and most vulnerable. These sanctions however encourage a culture of stigma and social exclusion.
– Prolonged sanctions are based on a model of deterrence and punishment: if a claimant sanctioned for one week is deterred from missing the conditionality, a claimant sanctioned for four weeks is four times more likely to do so. There is no evidence to back up this claim.
Commenting on the report, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church, Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, said:
“As a society we need to face up to the reality of this situation and think: is this really what we want to happen? Where those whose lives are already fragile to be made harder.
It isn’t right that punishment rather support is what we offer to families or people with mental health problems who can’t find work.
That’s why today we’re calling for a full and independent review of the sanctions regime.”
The report can be found here:http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/26208/2499_JPIT_Sanctions_Report_high_res.pdf
Link to photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Department_for_Work_and_Pensions#mediaviewer/File:Department_for_Work_and_Pensions_logo.svg