Friday, 28 February 2014

MP condemns benefits sanctions

Local MP Katy Clark has spoken of her anger at the impact benefit sanctions are having on local people.

The UK Tory-Lib Dem Government has introduced a new sanctions regime that has seen the sole income removed from thousands of Jobseekers, often for relatively minor breaches of Jobseeker Agreements. At Saltcoats Jobcentre alone over the past 12 months, a total of 1,309 local unemployed people had their benefits stopped as a result of a sanction.

The increased use of sanctions has been a factor in the numbers of people turning in desperation to foodbanks. Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions reveal that, across the UK, there were 874,850 Jobseeker Allowance sanctions in the year to September 2013, the highest figure for any 12 month period since the unemployment benefit was introduced in 1996. Sanctions can be applied for anything up to 3 years.

Katy Clark told the3towns, “The increase in the number of people receiving Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance who are being sanctioned is deeply worrying.”

The MP for North Ayrshire & Arran said, “These sanctions strip the primary source of income from some of the most vulnerable people in society. Over 50,000 adverse JSA sanction decisions have been taken against lone parents, and one in five people sanctioned are disabled.

“Disabled people are also particularly hard hit by the increase in ESA sanctions. ESA is the primary income replacement benefit for disabled people. Alarmingly, sanctions have shot up by 125 percent in a twelve month period.”

Ms Clark pointed to a recent report by Citizens Advice, which highlighted some of the reasons for sanctions were “spurious or overly-punitive”.

The Labour MP said the UK Government’s sanctions regime is “cruel” and “needs to be immediately suspended and replaced by a system fit for a civilised society in the 21st Century”.

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