Report shows Unite Community success in overturning Ne...

Report shows Unite Community success in overturning Newcastle benefit sanctions

27 July 2017

A new report has revealed the staggering success of Unite community members in overturning wrongly implemented benefits sanctions in Newcastle and the north east.

The newly published annual report from the Tyne and Wear Centre against Unemployment, based in Newcastle and which is principally operated by volunteers from Unite’s Community section, has recorded a staggering 82 per cent success rate when appealing against benefits sanctions.

The 82 per cent success rate is well above the national average 63 per cent success rate when appealing against benefit sanctions.

Cases won by the centre include the case of a woman born in the 1960s with a thalidomide related condition who has no forearms and only two fingers on each hand, who cannot touch her face. She had her Personal Independence Payments (PIP) withdrawn as she was recorded as having zero points and it was wrongly recorded she could feed herself. Following support from her MP the benefit was reinstated only to be withdrawn again. A volunteer from the centre represented her at the appeal and her benefit was permanently restored.

In a another case a man in his 50s who was starved of oxygen at birth and has a lifetime of special needs requirements, meaning that he could not complete the assessment form, was awarded zero points and had his Disabled Living Allowance withdrawn. The paperwork was completed by a volunteer, an appeal was lodged and won. The man and his mother were then able to resume their lives, without the financial worries that had unexpectedly beset them.

In another case a young man in his 20s sought assistance initially in a workplace bullying case. He had been bullied by his manager out of his position as a nurse and his mental state had further deteriorated because his PiP had been stopped. He was assisted by several volunteers, one assisted him with reinstating his benefit, while another represented him in an employment tribunal. He also attended several debt-management sessions and was trained to give the sessions himself. He has now returned to the workplace and his original boss was dismissed.

The volunteers at the centre who are all members of Unite Community provide advice and assistance on a wide range of advice including benefits, employment and debt management.

John Coan, Unite community coordinator for the north east, Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “This report demonstrates the incredible work that is being undertaken by Unite community members at the Tyne and Wear Centre against Unemployment. Their successes in overturning benefit sanctions have transformed many people’s lives for the better.

“Yet despite our successes these figures provide no comfort, the cases our volunteers are dealing with are simply the tip of the iceberg and for every case we deal with there must be hundreds of wrongly applied sanctions which go unchallenged, subjecting vulnerable people to a miserable existence.

“The wholesale wrongful sanctioning of people’s benefits is an entirely immoral policy and if the government had an ounce of compassion the entire policy would be withdrawn.

“The government is now intent on rolling out universal credit which is going to force applicants to apply online. This could lead to a potential rise in incorrect benefit refusals and there is going to be an even greater need for benefit advice and assistance.”

Due to the success of the centre the volunteers are operating at full capacity and are urgently seeking additional support. If you live in the Tyne and Wear Region and would like to volunteer please contact the centre. Training is available.


Notes for editors: 

  • Tyne and Wear Centre against Unemployment, Room 4.4 Broadacre House, Market St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6HQ. Tel: 01091 233 0888. Email: 
  • Unite Community’s mission is to organise people to strive for a society that places equality, dignity and respect above all else. Those not in employment are welcomed into the union family, adding another dimension to our strength in thousands of workplaces across the UK and Ireland. 
  • For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: 
  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.