The Socialist 5 March 2014 |
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Fight the government's vicious sanctions regime
Ian Pattison, Youth Fight for Jobs
Experiencing the daily grind of poverty and fruitless job searches when you're out of work is very demoralising.
But the Con-Dem government goes the extra mile. They're hell-bent on making life as difficult and miserable as possible for unemployed people.
Recently, the news media has been awash with stories about the severity of benefit sanctions. The link between benefit sanctions and extreme poverty featured heavily in BBC's Panorama documentary, 'Hungry Britain?', on the spread of food banks across the country.
According to Panorama, a record high number of people, 875,000, had their benefits withdrawn through sanctions over the last year.
Demonstrating the depths of cold cruelty that Con-Dem policy can sink to, 130,000 of these were overturned on appeal. This outrageous figure would be even higher if more people appealed.
Many people have their benefits withdrawn for devastatingly long periods of time for what even the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) deems 'minor offences'. One family had their benefits cut entirely following a 'clerical mix-up', ie a mistake by DWP!
The DWP pleads innocence and claims there are no targets for sanctioning people on benefits. But PCS members working in jobcentres know that sanctions targets do exist.
Jobcentre workers are pressured into meeting 'management estimates' on benefit sanctions. Panorama featured one jobcentre in Grantham adorned with a wall chart showing the savings made from imposing severe benefit sanctions.
Jobseeker's Allowance recipients are by no means the only people to suffer from sanctions. Victims of the hated 'bedroom tax' have been told to find a lodger or more paid work to cover the penalties imposed on their 'spare room', without knowing this can affect their eligibility for housing benefit.
Benefit sanctions, even those provoked by mistakes by DWP, leave unemployed people with, at best, an emergency payment, but in some circumstances, nothing.
Out of touch former Thatcherite Tory minister, Edwina Currie, says there is no need for food banks and no such thing as food poverty.
Scandalously, Iain Duncan Smith has even claimed food banks contribute to 'entitlement culture', putting the blame for the disgustingly rapid expansion of food banks anywhere but at the doorstep of his government.
They're even more out of touch than we previously thought when they claim 'there is no link between their welfare cuts and the rise of food banks'.
The Con-Dem government should no longer be confident it can rely on public antipathy when attacking people on benefits. There is only so far they can push us, before we snap back!