It is no longer a secret that benefit sanctions are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths. The disastrous impact of sanctions and the deaths of David Clapson and others have now been widely reported. More than 200,000 people signed the petition calling for an inquiry into sanctions which led to the Work and Pensions committee agreeing to look at the issue. As we predicted their response is woefully inadequate.
Considering the evidence that was presented to them it is a disgrace that their final report merely calls for mitigation and for yet another inquiry. It is very difficult to imagine any other circumstances where government policy could lead directly to the deaths of members of the public and the response from a parliamentary committee be so feeble. This is a reflection of the extent to which the campaign of hatred against benefit claimants has created a political consensus that no longer views claimants as human beings.
Unsurprisingly the committee ignored our evidence about the wider consequences of sanctions. The report barely acknowledged the fact that sanctions are used to force people to carry out unpaid work and does not consider the wider impact of this on the labour market. Worryingly the report recommends further testing and segmenting of claimants by their attitudes and motivations and says that the DWP should identify and focus on claimants whose attitudes it seeks to change. The report perpetuates the misconception that claimants require correction, threat and punishment. In short it calls for the continuation of sanctions whilst acknowledging that there is no evidence to support the policy.
Sanctions are the withdrawal of subsistence level benefits as a punishment. They are a form of structural violence that uses the threat and imposition of poverty and destitution as an instrument of social control. Sanctions are a fundamentally unjust and unethical policy. They are part of a discourse that stigmatises and demeans claimants and part of a system aimed at undermining social security and disciplining the labour market. It is clear that whoever wins the election that sanctions will continue. And whoever wins the election we will continue to resist this grotesque policy and to support those affected. Here’s how you can help: