Last week figures on how many people faced sanctions (benefit stoppages) were published. There were no surprises, only the disturbing reality that more people are facing the hardship, hunger and stress of sanctions than ever before.
What about the union of the job centre workers who are pushing poor people into these devastating situations? Last year its members voted for PCS union to look into means of non-cooperation with sanctions, but its leadership is point blank refusing to even consider this an option. This is despite the fact that over 4000 workfare placements have taken place in the DWP, undermining jobs and wages for PCS members.
Elsewhere, the TUC mustered a cynical statement condemning sanctions – cynical given they also support the use of sanctions (PDF – 3.6, pg 31) and have explicitly called for Labour’s ‘workfare-lite’, the so-called ‘job guarantee’, to be backed with this threat of destitution. Also taking the cynical “sanctions bad, but also necessary” line were charity Gingerbread, which seemed determined to have its cake and eat it, in a press statement which managed to both condemn and advocate sanctions.
Workfare and sanctions will continue to lead to ever increasing poverty, whether you’re in work or out of work. People are going hungry as a result of these policies. Which is perhaps why the government appear to have buried a report on the reason behind the rise of foodbank usage. A leaked document has revealed that the government have even floated the idea of charging people money to appeal to have their sanctions overturned.
Labour’s muted response is in this context is hardly surprising, given it recently stated that it wants to be even tougher on those claiming benefits than the current government.
Perhaps seeing an ever increasing moral vacuum opening up at the heart of UK politics, the leader of the Catholic church in England attacked the government for the increase in poverty due to welfare cuts and sanctions. Unfortunately his colleagues elsewhere have not followed suit: leading Christian charities such as the Salvation Army and YMCA are profiting from using workfare on a large scale. As such they are directly involved in sanctioning people and increasing poverty.
What does it all mean? This: If we want an end to workfare and sanctions, and if we want to preserve the welfare state then it really is quite literally up to every single one of us to do what we can – to make a real difference. Whatever we do, it all adds up! Just last week, Atos, the multinational responsible for throwing thousands of people off sickness benefits announced it wants to exit its contract – a massive victory for groups like Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle who have challenged its terrible practices.
The successful Welfare Action Gathering last week saw new links made between like-minded groups and individuals from across the country. Everyone who came is determined to do what they can – so can you. Join us in saying no to sanctions. Boycott workfare. Boycott exploitation.