The number of claimants on sickness and disability benefits facing sanctions looks set to have doubled since December last year. 11,400 claims were slashed for failure to participate in work related activity or missing a meeting with the Jobcentre in the seven months between December 2012 and June 2013. This compares to 10,130 sanctions inflicted on those claiming sickness or disability benefits in the previous 12 months.
Sanctions have also soared for people on the mainstream unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance, with the DWP boasting today that over half a million claims have been sanctioned between November 2012 and June 2013.
Benefit sanctions lead to desperate poverty and are often handed out for the most trivial of reasons. A recent report by Citizens Advice warned that sanctions have led to people to attempting suicide, becoming homeless or resorting to begging or going through bins for food.
This is all wonderful news according to Employment Minister Esther McVey who today proclaimed: “We always make the rules very clear – it’s only right that there is a penalty if people fail to play by them.”
And if that penalty means homelessness, hunger or even death then that’s just fine with the DWP who recently attempted to organise a week celebrating the success of the new sanctioning regime.
Astonishingly many of those who have faced sanctions will have been plunged into poverty by charities who have been only too happy to sell out their service users for free workers and lucrative Work Programme contracts.
Household names including the Salvation Army (@salvationarmyuk), YMCA (@YMCA_England) and The Conservation Volunteers (@tcvtweets) have all defended these vicious measures whilst employing countless unpaid workers under threat of sanctions on mandatory workfare schemes.
Members of the Disability Works coalition have also got their snouts in the trough. Some of those on sickness or disability benefits who were sanctioned will have had benefits slashed due to ‘compliance doubts’ raised by charities such as SCOPE (@scope), Mencap (@mencap_charity) and MIND (@mindcharity). These so-called charities are Work Programme sub-contractors and have agreed to report back to the Jobcentre if a claimant misses a meeting or fails to attend ‘work related activity’. Charities claiming to support disabled people are now complicit in destroying people’s lives by snitching to the DWP that they aren’t trying hard enough to find a job.
This is despite these claimants having undergone a notorious Atos assessment which has agreed that they are unable to work at present. Appalling however sick and disabled claimants can still be sent to work unpaid on the Work Programme or face sanctions. They may be unfit for work, but they are fit for workfare in the eyes of the DWP.
With yet more workfare planned, alongside ludicrous new ‘conditionality’ for unemployment benefits which expects people to spend 35 hours a week looking for non-existent jobs, the number of sanctions is likely to rise even further. The poverty now being socially engineered by the DWP is unprecedented in living memory in the UK. In one of the richest countries in the world people are now being left to go hungry or homeless with the collusion of charities – whilst the Labour Party boasts they will be even tougher on unemployed or disabled claimants than the Tories. It is down to claimants themselves – and all those who support a welfare state that does not abandon people to destitution for any reason – to fight back against this callous war on the poor.
A good place to start is the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on 2nd December, please spread the word, tweet and share: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3060
There is also a petition (I know) on 38 Degrees calling for all sanctions to be scrapped. Please sign/share etc: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk
(It’s not all doom and gloom. Disabled people fighting the closure of the Independent Living Fund today had a major victory in the courts.)
Above pic via the Benefit Claimants Fightback group on facebook.
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid