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Press release: “Sanctions must stop” say campaigners

After months of delay, the DWP have finally released data on benefit sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants. The data confirms what claimants and anti-poverty campaigners have been saying all along; that sanctions are being used on a massive scale to bully and intimidate claimants and leave hundreds of thousands of people without subsistence benefits for a minimum of four weeks, with the maximum sanction lasting for three years.

Some of the key stats from the DWP’s data shows that:

  • Since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012, there has been an average of 69,000 JSA sanctions a month – a 75% increase on the previous year.
  • Between October 2012 and June 2013 0.58 million JSA sanctions were applied.
  • Between December 2012 – June 2013 11,000 ESA sanctions were applied. 71% of these were for “failure to participate in work related activity”. ESA claimants having been declared unfit for work by ATOS were subsequently sanctioned by the DWP for failing to do workfare.
  • Between December 2012 – June 2013 45,000 ESA sanction decisions were made with 11,000 of these being applied. For JSA between October 2012 – June 2013, 1.35 million sanction decisions were made of which 0.58 million were applied. This shows the high rate of successful challenges that claimants have made to a sanction decision.

With the post-Work Programme ‘support’ and Osborne’s mass workfare plans, it is likely that these numbers will continue to soar as a result of these increasing obstacles to subsistence benefits. The DWP also has plans for one million low paid workers to be subject to the brutal sanctions regime.

Boycott Workfare have called on the Public and Commercial Services union, the union for job centre staff, to ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.

Boycott Workfare have called for a UK-wide Week of Action Against Sanctions and Workfare from 2nd to 8th December.

Liz Wyatt from Boycott Workfare said: “These statistics are sickening to see, but they are no surprise. We are contacted regularly by people who tell us horrific stories of being unable to afford to buy food as a result of having their benefits sanctioned. They also describe the significant mental toll that sanctions and the threat of sanctions cause them. Sanctions must stop. They are causing hunger, homelessness, and intense suffering in our communities.

“Yet the government is intent on extending benefit sanctions to low-paid workers as well, bringing one million more people under the savage sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used by the government to bully people from claiming what is rightfully theirs. People around the country will be taking action against sanctions and workfare in December as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action and we invite people to join us.”

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Monique Buckner

I got sanctioned for not attending an interview I did not know I had. I have a young daughter to look after and I got severe depression and anxiety as a result of the sanction- even my daughter started having anxiety. The sanction has destroyed my trust and respect for JobCentre staff. I no longer trust anything they tell me. While I was on this sanction, it was difficult to find work with my depression and poor diet. Even a dog is not legally allowed to be starved for a month. This government believes it is acceptable to starve people for a month, up to three years. This perfectly fits the definition of genocide, one of the criteria for genocide being a deliberate removal of a person's means to survival.

Guy Maxwell

I was sanctioned back in July for missing two appointments at A4e during a single week when i was sick. I appealed and provided a doctors note to prove my sickness and it was overturned.
Then, last month i got a letter telling me that a law had changed allowing the DWP to look at the decision again and all of a sudden the sanction was back on. Only this time i don't have a doctors note to send to them for an appeal since i already sent it to them. I've appealed again but without the doctors note i don't have high expectations for it to be overturned again.

Rosie

It's terrible but unavoidable that some of us come to realise the impact only when we become victims!

I've worked for 35 yrs - claimed JSA twice once for a few weeks, unfortunately the last time was longer 2007 recession! I made an error, focussed on a scheduled telephone interview and preparing for it on my very first sign on day.. also received calls from agencies who found my CV online - it was a busy and promising day. Result- I've been sanctioned for 4 weeks. I applied for JSA (only) five weeks after completing my last position ie when the money ran out. That's how I view JSA, a means to eat & pay bills; as a woman, purchase life's essentials each month; and attend interviews which can cost up to £10 per interview.

Having paid taxes for 35 yrs I thought I was immune, that this was my money, after all that's partly why they take taxes and NI from me isn't it?!

These people have mounted a campaign of hate against anyone in receipt of benefits - pariah's in society, so that they can publish reduced benefits and unemployment figures and get elected.

The silence around IDS and his government pushing innocent people into instant and abject poverty is frightening - This is the UK! They rely on people like me staying quiet, leading social activists, opposition parties and unions not speaking out about this because our feeling of failure and shame induces a heavy silence about being unemployed!