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Campaign: more needs to be done to make Welfare fair

 
December 5th 2013
 
This autumn, The Pavement has focused its attention on welfare. The changes to the way people in Britain receive financial support from the government has undergone a huge change this year – from the introduction of Universal Credit, cracking down on disability benefits and, of course, benefit sanctions.

And it’s those sanctions that have been the most shocking.

According to statistics released by the Department of Work and Pensions last month, 580,000 sanctions were imposed on people claiming benefits between October 2012 and June 2013.

Of these, over 52,000 people were given a ‘high’ sanction, which means they lose their benefits for 13 weeks the first time they are sanctioned. If they fail to comply for a second time, this increases to 26 weeks, and then 156 for subsequent transgressions of the department's rules.

The department claimed over a third of all those sanctioned had failed to ‘actively seek employment’, and a futher 30 per cent had not taken part in the Work Programme. Others had not turn up for interviews.

Figures obtained by Crisis show that almost half were jobseekers who lost income support for at least a month.

This money is a financial lifeline for many – and when it’s cut off, even temporarily, people are hit hard. When this situation continues for weeks and even months, situations become desperate, and horror stories of payday loans taken just for survival are commonplace.

Aside from mounting debts or struggling to get food or shelter, it can put enormous emotional stress on a person when their life is most fragile. Worse still – unfortunately not that surprising for The Pavement – Crisis found evidence that the sanctions are often imposed in error. So the suffering caused is not only cruel, but also unjust.

At The Pavement, we’ve been campaigning to find out your views on the changes. In November we contacted scores of shelters and homeless charities up and down Great Britain, from Scotland to the South Coast. We found widespread concern about how sanctions were hitting service users.

In Scotland, the Glasgow Homelessness Network has set up a Welfare Reform Working Group to monitor how policy changes are affecting them. Development Worker Johanna Speirs told us that sanctions were increasing and she had been moved to publish a survey to ascertain the impact it is having in Glasgow. GHN hope to publish those findings in the new year – and we’ll bring those to you, along with any other results.

Another centre carefully monitoring sanctions is The Booth Centre in Manchester Cathedral, where Director Amanda Croome recorded a 24 per cent increase in the number of people facing benefit sanctions in the last 12 months. The Booth Centre helps around 170 people every week, far more this year than last, and is already under pressure. But Amanda explained that the sanctions take up large amounts of staff time that would otherwise be better spent giving direct help to their centre users.

“Its effecting our ability to get people into accommodation assume hostels wont take people who have been sanctioned,” she added.

At the other end of the country, Mike Taylor, who runs The Harwell Centre in Plymouth, Devon, said an increase in the use of sanctions had led to more people relying on Food Banks in the area.

We remained concerned about benefit changes: The Pavement will continue to document any stories you have about the impact sanctions have. Our campaign – Make Welfare Fair – has in over three months only highlighted how much more needs to be done.

Have you been sanctioned? Tell us: rebecca@thepavement.org.uk

 
 
 

December 2013

 

Contents

Upfront: Xmas crisis?

Perfect Twitter tent storm

Visible community

Begbie hits the streets

The MXU and you

No Second Night Out roll-out

Campaign: more needs to be done to make Welfare fair

 

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