Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/788/17741
Benefit sanction figures expose Tory lies
An advice centre worker
On 6 November, the DWP issued figures for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants sanctioned under new rules brought in from October last year, and last June. The statistics show the claim that sanctions get people into work is a lie.
For JSA, comparing November 2012 and June 2013, there was an 11% rise in sanctions. 580,000 sanctions were delivered between October 2012 and June 2013, a 6% rise over the same time the previous year before the draconian new rules were introduced.
So far, 223,000 people have got the lowest sanction, 167,000 the intermediate and 48,000 the highest.
For ESA, 9,000 people were given 11,000 sanctions between October and June - in the year ending May 2012, 11,130 ESA sanctions were issued.
It is clear that the system is designed, not to get people off benefits and into work, but off benefits and into the depths of poverty.
Sanctions take place for many reasons - not attending a work-based interview, missing a signing-on date, not applying for "enough" jobs - and can be for a short period or for up to three years.
The agency I work for is situated in one of the most deprived inner-city wards in the country; a few yards down the road is the local job centre.
Every day, we see the reality of what sanctions mean. Like the disabled woman sent to an Atos interview: when she arrived, she found she could not climb the stairs to the interview, went home, phoned them - and was sanctioned.
Or the young lad sent to a job interview by the DWP the same day as he should sign on, told he could sign on the next day - and sanctioned when he turned up for being a day late.
The situation is getting worse. With orders and pressure coming from above, Atos is declaring more people fit for work and the DWP sanctioning more people for the most spurious of reasons.
In 2011-12, 738,000 people went through work capability assessments. The Public Accounts Committee found 38% of their decisions were overturned on appeal.
The agency I work for, Citizens Advice, reported an 83% rise in people seeking assistance with appeals last year.
ESA appeals rose 70%. 76% of those who appealed won their cases and were found eligible to receive benefits.
Small wonder that the government has acted to stop appeals. This time last year, my agency was able to represent claimants at tribunal, with the advice being funded through Legal Aid.
Now, welfare benefits have been removed from the scope of Legal Aid; instead of five advisers able to help and represent at tribunal, we have no representation at all, and one adviser coming in part time, while the demand for our services grows every day.
That is, of course, if claimants make it to appeal. The government's own statistics show that, in 2010/11, 10,600 disabled or sick people died within six weeks of losing their benefits after being found fit for work or sanctioned.
People on benefits face a future of despair and poverty, driven by the government's furious rush to put as much money into the pockets of the rich as they can before Labour are re-elected.
They needn't worry though. Labour's shadow welfare minister, Rachel Reeves, has pledged to be tougher than the Tories on benefits.
Marx once wrote that capitalism came into existence dripping blood from every pore - a truth that continues today.
In The Socialist 13 November 2013:
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