According to the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) official statistics, benefit sanctions have been applied in Scotland to people claiming Jobseekers Allowance on 53,270 occasions since October 2012, when these arrangements were introduced.
Work Minister, Esther McVey, said recently that sanctions were applied to those who deliberately avoided seeking work, however, GCVS has heard testimony from lone parents and carers representatives from Glasgow and other parts of Scotland about some alarming experiences, which challenge this claim.
At a recent event to launch the manifesto for the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR),we heard of severely disabled people being wrongly assessed as fit for work and instructed to claim JSA, who were then sanctioned for failing strict jobseeking requirements, which are a condition of receiving the benefit.
At a separate event run by One Parent Families Scotland, one grandmother and kinship carer reported that she had gone without heating throughout winter as a result of sanctions which left her with rent arrears and no money for her or her granddaughter to live on.
The event heard testimony which described errors in the sanctions system and inappropriate pressures being brought to bear on people with genuine reasons for being unable to attend appointments, and reports of people suffering from acute anxiety before signing on as a result of the way the system was being operated.
GCVS is extremely concerned that this is one of a number of elements of welfare reform which is likely to propel people further into debt and rent arrears, while leaving them reliant on food banks and unable to heat their homes. When JSA is sanctioned, claimants also lose entitlement to Housing Benefit. Citizens Advice Scotland warned that people who are sanctioned face a desperate situation, Chief Executive Margaret Lynch stated,
“This is bad enough for those people who have actually done something wrong, but our evidence is that many people have been sanctioned for no good reason or because of errors in the system. And of course many of those sanctioned have children and other dependents, who suffer the deprivation along with them. How does this fit with the Government’s vision of supporting vulnerable families and helping people into work.”
It is also important to remember that while the Government’s Scottish Welfare Fund provides support to help Scots deal with the worst impacts of welfare reform, it does not provide crisis loans to most people who have been subject to sanctions. There are some exceptions relating to sanctioned families feeding their children, or crisis support in the event of floods, or disasters.
GCVS will continue to monitor and report on these developments and will ensure that the GCVS Welfare Reform Group considers the implications for Glasgow.
Source: Herald Scotland