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Sanctions: ‘Punishing Poverty?’ a new report by the CAB

Citizens Advice has published a new report which describes in no uncertain terms the seriousness of JSA sanctions and the dire financial position people end in when they are sanctioned.

We've heard this from plenty of people who have told us about their experiences of JSA sanctions:

“I’m 60. My job is – I used to do cleaning work, so [the jobecentre wants me looking for] cleaning work, or shop work or kitchen work. That’s the jobs that I’m supposed to be getting – but when you tell them your age, that’s it. They say that you’re too old... They stopped my JSA for a month. They left me alone for a while, but I’m dreading [my jobcentre meeting on Friday]. If my paperwork is not good enough, they will try and stop my money. You have to take a sheet in stating your name, your national insurance number and then stating what kind of work you’re doing and what kind of work you’re looking for. If there’s no work to look for, they still put it down that you’re not looking for work. It’s ridiculous. All these school-leavers can’t even get a job. There’s people like us trying to look for work and then all these youngsters coming out of school. To me, I’m getting depressed, because they’re on your back all the time. They haven’t left me alone since I’ve been back on it for a year."

Disabled People Against Cuts notes that:

"-60% of those sanctioned had been receiving JSA, but a further 33% were unfit for work and were receiving ESA.

-40% of respondents said they had not received a letter from the Job Centre informing them of the sanction.

-Almost a quarter of respondents did not know why they had been sanctioned. 29% of respondents said they had been sanctioned because they had not done enough to look for work. However, many people commented that the sanction had been applied unfairly, when they had in fact looked for work or attended an interview as required, because of a very narrow interpretation of the rules or for reasons that were beyond their control.

-More than half the respondents said they had not received any information about how to appeal against the sanction. Nonetheless, three-fifths (62%) of respondents had appealed. One third of these appeals had been successful and a further 23% of those who had appealed were still waiting to hear the outcome. Administrative delays in receiving formal notification of the sanction meant that a number of people had been refused leave to appeal because they were out of time, adding further to the perception that they had been treated unfairly.

-The majority of respondents had been sanctioned for four weeks or less, but almost one third had been sanctioned for 10 weeks or more. The average duration of the sanction was 8 weeks.

-Two-thirds of respondents had been left with no income after the sanction was imposed. Those with children reported they only had child benefit and child tax credits.

-Just under a quarter (23%) of those sanctioned were living in households with children. More than 10% of respondents were lone parents.

-Respondents coped with the loss of income by borrowing money from friends and family (80%), from the bank or on their credit card (8%) or from a pay day loan company (9%).

-They also cut down on food (71%), heating (49%) and travel (47%). Almost a quarter (24%) had applied for a food parcel. Some respondents had been left to scrounge for food from skips or bins, or had had to resort to begging to feed themselves." You can read the rest of the DPAC post here.

John Evans, 60, tells us about his experiences of being sanctioned. John "trained as an engineer after leaving school and worked long-term in electrical engineering jobs for most of my life until I was about 50. I was made redundant several times, the last time about ten years ago. My marriage broke up as well and I had to sell my house when that happened. I thought I would get another job though. Since then, I haven’t been able to find another job and I think that is because of my age. I’m now on JSA and I am regularly sanctioned. I’ve had to ask for emergency money when they sanction me. They just cut me off. I live in a room in a house that is occupied by people who are in similar situations."

You can read a list of ridiculous reasons for benefit sanctions here.

There is a list of testimonies from people affected by sanctions here.

Johnnyvoid has an excellent post about the CABreport and sanctions here

What happens when you're banned from your jobcentre? Why can't people appeal these decisions?

This appalling situation with sanctions is pushing people into absolute poverty. It has to stop.

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