Petition update

Update on Sanctions inquiry

Gill Thompson
Stevenage, United Kingdom

Apr 14, 2015 — Dear All,

On 24th March the DWP Select Committee Inquiry’s findings and recommendations were officially published.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmworpen/814/814.pdf.

There are also attachments to the witnesses’ written evidence including David’s story.

It proves a rather hard read with page 56-62 listing the recommendations (26 in total).

I record below some of the highlights of the report which I found of some comfort which I hope that many others will too.

3. Providers’ ability to accept “good reason”
…”we believe that DWP should take more urgent steps to ensure that a more common-sense approach is set out in guidance”. We recommend that DWP’s guidance to contracted providers makes clear that discretion can be applied where providers’ staff are confident that a claimant’s failure to meet a mandatory condition was due to extenuating circumstances beyond the claimant’s control”.

13. Drawing on specialist advice from health experts
“We recommend that DWP, drawing on specialist advice from health experts, develop guidance on vulnerability which is specifically intended to assist JCP staff in identifying vulnerable JSA claimants”

25. DWP should make hardship payments available from day one of a sanction period in all cases.
The fact that in January 2015 the most recent data on hardship payments were from 2010–11, which the Committee found highly regrettable, they recommend that DWP publish, on at least an annual basis.

26. Investigate deaths of benefit claimants.
“We ask that the Department set out the number of peer review cases where the claimant was subject to a benefit sanction at the time of death and the results of any such reviews in terms of policy changes. In addition, DWP should seek to establish a body modelled on the Independent Police Complaints Commission, to conduct reviews, at the request of relatives…”

The Labour Party have committed to accept all the recommendations in the DWP select Committee Inquiry report.
The DWP has made an initial response to the report but it’s disappointing that it made no reference to the select committee’s recommendations which would help protect vulnerable people from the inappropriate use of sanctions. In contrast Labour have already said they would accept all the select committee’s recommendations.

The DWP said:
“As the report recognises, sanctions are a vital backstop in the welfare system and are only used in a small minority of cases where claimants don’t do all they can to look for work.
“Every day Jobcentre Plus advisers work hard to help people into jobs, and we continue to spend around £94bn a year on working age benefits to provide a safety net that supports millions of people.” Jobcentre advisers make it very clear to people when they first claim benefits what is expected of them, and what the consequences are if they don’t play by the rules. More than 70 per cent of claimants say they are more likely to follow the rules if they know they risk having their benefits stopped. Benefit sanctions are not new – they have been in effect for decades under successive governments and are a vital backstop of the benefits system, encouraging people to engage with the support on offer”.

The Trussell Trust stated over 900,000 people are relying on their food banks (1.4 % of population). Whilst the government maintains the economy has improved - ….. job seekers is down, employment up, a better life for all and sanctions are a last resort - with over 3 million sanctions have been issued so far - it is some last resort!

In the Daily Mail of 8th April George Osborne spoke more on austerity savings, stating by 2017-18 aims to cut a further £12bn from the Welfare Bill, yet just £5bn on clamping down on tax avoidance.

How much more can they punish the poor, vulnerable and innocent?
This is not a numbers game, our loved ones are not statistics, and we must never lose sight - or let the government lose sight - of all the suffering since the new sanctioning regime was introduced in 2012

Thank you again, it would not be possible to get this far without all your help and support and now we must ensure that not only are “lessons learned” but the next government hits the ground running and follows through with the recommendations and stop any further hardship placed on the sick and vulnerable in our society - or we will continue the campaign until it does.

If you wish to write to me direct please do so at gill.a4u@outlook.com

My deepest thanks,

Gill


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