The DWP have cancelled a vile week long celebration of benefit sanctions due to be held to coincide with the Tory Party Conference the PCS Union have reported. In a sign of growing militancy from the PCS leadership to oppose the vicious sanctioning regime (stop laughing) the union had issued a strongly worded letter to DWP bosses complaining about the upcoming shindig.
Iain Duncan Smith and his department had been planning to rejoice at the news that hundreds of thousands of people are being pushed into desperate poverty by the massive increase in draconian sanctions. According to the PCS, the DWP had said the week of festivities was about “celebrating how far we have come since the introduction of tougher sanction levels last year”.
It now appears that the week of fun has been scrapped with all mention of Conditionality Week disappearing from the DWP’s website except for a memo to Work Programme providers inviting them to join the party (PDF).
Benefits can now be sanctioned for the most trivial reasons, such as missing a meeting or being late for an appointment. A list of especially stupid sanctions, such as benefits being stopped because someone didn’t look for enough work on Christmas Day, has recently appeared online.
In some cases benefit sanctions can last up to three years. Homelessness charity umbrella body Homeless Link last week released a report which claimed sanctions were driving some recently housed homeless people back to the streets. Foodbanks consistently report sanctions as one of the main reasons families find themselves dependent on their scant support.
The DWP are dragging their feet on providing the latest information on the number of benefit claims sanctioned this year, but it is believed to be likely to top one million. That’s a million cases of children going hungry, people unable to pay their rent or sick and disabled people not having the money to heat their homes. And that is one million reasons to party as far as Iain Duncan Smith is concerned.
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