For some time I’ve been concerned about the effect of benefit sanctions on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Before I started this blog I decided to do some more research on the benefit sanctions – it doesn’t make for pleasant reading.
Benefit Sanctions have been rolled out and incrementally increased all over Europe. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has done a study on the short and long term effect of sanctions. (You can read their report here: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/review-of-benefit-sanctions)
The Guardian have an article on the culture within Job Centres of each person having to sanction at least 3 people every week. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/01/jobcentres-tricking-people-benefit-sanctions)
Some *examples of our experience of benefit sanctions from the clients of The Well:
1. A Middle Eastern man had his benefits stopped for six months because while he was in the waiting room for a work experience interview his mobile phone rang.
2. An African woman had her benefits stopped for three months as she had not taken a 24 hour job at a supermarket. Her JSA contract said she only had to look for jobs of 16 hours.
3. A Kurdish man had his benefits stopped for 2 weeks as his job diary only had “asked friends, asked in shops”. He cannot speak much English, and can certainly not read and write English – so is definitely not going to be able to find jobs online or in newspapers.
We are finding that people are not being advised that they may be to apply for hardship payments – which are only available if they can prove they have no other source of income (ie family and friends). Any hardship payment is half of their benefit.
(Even while writing this, I’ve just had another email asking for advice about a non English speaking man who has been sanctioned for four weeks for not trying hard enough to get work & who has been left destitute with no money to even buy basic food.)
This is not a fair system, and those who do not speak English are at a huge disadvantage.
I’m increasingly convinced that we need to help raise the public awareness of what is happening, and I would certainly encourage people to contact their MPs to challenge, what is by its very nature, a discriminatory system.