Campaigners, members of Britain’s biggest union, Unite, will be protesting outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London and over 80 job centres across the country tomorrow (Thursday 30 March) to reiterate their call for the government to stop its ‘cruel and ineffective’ benefit sanctions regime. This is part of a national day of action to stop benefit sanctions.
Unite wants to highlight the shocking impact the government’s benefit sanctions are having on individuals, driving people further into poverty, misery and even death.
Since the Tories first came into power in May 2010 over 3 million individuals have been referred for a sanction 8 million times.
Punitive sanctions have resulted in over 318,000 people having their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning in the last year, affecting thousands of children and dependant adults. Sanctions are given for reasons such as missing or being late for appointments with the job centre, or being too sick to ‘actively seek work’.
Liane Groves, head of Unite Community said: “The government really needs to stop the cruel use of benefit sanctions which are destroying lives.
“The stress they are putting on people, and the effect on their children and wider families, is unacceptable. We should all be shocked.
“The government has shown no evidence that benefit sanctions are working. The opposite is true, when people are in survival mode, fighting to put food on their family’s table or stressing how they will pay their bills means their mental and physical heath suffers and finding work is so much harder.
“Rather than punishing the unemployed for not having a job the government should be helping people get jobs. People need a hand up – not a slap down.
“Unite Community members will be campaigning up and down the country tomorrow calling for an urgent end to sanctions.”
According to the Trussell Trust, one of the main providers of food banks, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels have been distributed to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17 – over 188,500 to children. The most common reason given for people turning to the food bank charity is problems and delays with their benefits.
Unite is also concerned that if people do not appeal against their first sanction, if they are sanctioned again, they will be sanctioned for longer - leaving people without money for three months or up to three years depending on the level of ‘offence’.
Figures released by DWP in December 2016 show that of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for between 1 and 2 years during 2010 to 2015, 37 per cent were sanctioned, after challenges; of those claiming between 2 and 3 years, half (49 per cent) were sanctioned; and of those claiming between 3 and 4 years, 85 per cent were sanctioned.
Unite Community members will be taking part in protests across London before moving to the Department of Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9DA for a demonstration from 15:00 to 16:30. Regional protests are also being held up and down the country tomorrow as part of the national day of action.
For further information please contact Karen Viquerat, Unite communications officer on 07768 931 316 or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors
A full list of regional activities is listed on the Unite website:
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.