The continued use of benefit sanctions just as the country is entering a period of heavy and sustained job losses is ‘unnecessary and particularly cruel’ and must be stopped, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Monday 13 July).

The call came as the union prepared for a #UniversalDisCredit online day of action on Wednesday (15 July), as part of a Unite Community campaign to reform the most punitive elements of Universal Credit (UC) and the wider welfare system. 

In addition to the eradication of sanctions, Unite is calling for an end to the five-week wait for payment for UC claimants.

The union is also demanding that the temporary £20-a-week additional payment provided to UC and Working Tax Credits claimants to help during the pandemic is made permanent and provided to all benefit claimants.

As part of the #UniversalDisCredit day of action, Unite is urging people to email their MPs, make their voices heard on social media and to complete an online survey on their experiences of the benefits system, particularly during the pandemic.

Head of Unite Community Liane Groves said: “At the beginning of lockdown the government rightly stopped benefit sanctions. But it didn’t take long for that decision to be reversed, even though there is barely any employment to be found.

“When jobs are being destroyed across the country, the use of benefit sanctions is unnecessary and particularly cruel.

“Hundreds of thousands of people, who have lost their jobs during this crisis, are learning for the first time what it is like to live under Britain’s brutal and discredited welfare system.

“With the prospect of countless more being forced to submit benefit claims, the pressure for social security reform will only grow.  

“In the immediate term this must include an end to benefit sanctions, the five- week wait for UC payment and a permanent increase of £20-a-week for all claimants.

“This crisis means the government can no longer get by on untruths about the workshy to punish those who need to access the social safety net.

“Welfare reform, particularly to Universal Credit, along with a proper plan to rebuild the economy, must happen if the country is to get back on its feet.” 


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.