Benefit Sanctions

TIME TO RETHINK

If you’re working, you have to turn up to work on time and do what’s expected of you; and if you don’t, employers can take disciplinary action – but there are strict rules about it, so that workers are treated reasonably and given due warning.  Employers can’t, for example, withhold a month’s pay because you were once 10 minutes late for an appointment.  But this is quite likely to happen if you are dependent on state benefits.

Jobseekers’ Allowance and Employment Support Allowance are paid to people who are either looking for work, or who are unable to work at the moment due to health problems.  These benfits are conditional upon claimants meeting certain conditions – such as applying for a set number of jobs each week, and attending appointments at the Jobcentre.  But research by churches has shown that large numbers of people are having their benefits suspended, with no warning period and little notice, for failing to meet the stipulated conditions – even if the infringement is minor, a ‘first offence’, or beyond their control.  Hardship, and resorting to the charity of family, friends and foodbanks, are acknowledged consequences of the sanctions regime.

God-given human dignity is affronted when people are left destitute.  Last year, over 1million sanctions were imposed – with more than 100 people per day being punished whilst unfit for work due to mental health problems.  100,000 children were affected, because adults’ benefits were suspended.  Setting up jobclubs, foodbanks and budget advice services is only part of the answer:  we need to challenge the reasons why people are going hungry in the first place.

Read the full report here: