Campaigners are asking the Scottish Government to intervene to legislate to avert the harsh impact that benefit sanctions have on peoples’ health.
The DWP’s own guidelines accept that leaving someone without the means to feed themselves or buy electricity for two weeks will have a detrimental impact on the health of a ‘normal healthy adult’. Even so, the minimum sanction period is four weeks, which can go up to 3 months, 12 months, or indefinitely. Black Triangle describes the guidelines as “appalling”. People are only deemed to be vulnerable, and able to receive hardship payments, if the likely impact on their health would be worse than the impact on a ‘normal healthy adult’.
The campaigners met with welfare minister, Margaret Burgess, to make their case for intervention. While benefits policy is reserved to Westminster, health is a devolved issue.
“Sanctions are a public health crisis and health is devolved,” Mr McArdle, of Black Triangle, said “We are trying to persuade the Scottish Government to legislate to protect people. We also feel they could do more to educate family doctors about the issues of disabled people falling through the net and being sanctioned. We want primary care to step up to the plate and flag up to the DWP when sanctions are putting people at substantial risk.”
A spokeswoman for the DWP said the guidelines did not mean that the department accepted sanctions would usually harm people’s health. However, asked for an alternative interpretation she said she was unable to provide one.
The House of Commons Work and pensions committee recently called for a full and independent review of the sanctions system after hearing evidence from organisations working with people who have been affected by the system, which revealed that the sanctions system is neither proportionate, nor fair, in its dealings with people.
Since the new sanctions regime implemented in October 2012 over 31,000 sanctions have been applied to unemployed people in Glasgow, while Springburn has been the most affected.
The DWP recently released statistics demonstrating the high number of sanctions which are overturned on appeal. People can often wait weeks for the appeal to go through, leaving them without any money on which to survive for the duration.
Source: The Herald