A woman whose benefits were sanctioned while she was in a life threatening coma claims she had to resort to stealing scrap metal when released from hospital – because she had no money to survive.
She is just one of thousands needlessly persecuted under the government’s vicious sanctions regime, even after the parliamentary work and pensions committee labelled them “unfair and punitive” and called for an independent review into their usage.
Lisa Hartley, 46, appeared in front of Hull Magistrates’ Court after being caught stealing copper pipe, door handles and a letter box from a derelict council house in the city on March 7.
Hartley, who woke from the coma despite doctors not expecting her to live, told the police at the scene she stole the metal because she “needed a bit of money.”
Solicitor Ed Cunnah, who was defending Hartley, said, “I’m sure you have seen details of the sad situation that led to her losing her benefits for a couple of months.
“I’m absolutely shocked someone who was in a coma in hospital, and was not expected to survive, lost their benefits for nine weeks through no fault of their own.”
After ordering Hartley to pay £85 costs and a £15 surcharge, chairman of the bench, Steven Larard, said to Cunnah, “We are quite surprised this matter came to court.
“I would have thought this could have been dealt with by a police warning or caution.”
Unite Community regional co-ordinator, John Coan, expressed his outrage that anyone could be forced into such a pitiable position, commenting that sanctions “undermine the very basis of the welfare state in this country.”
He said, “This dreadful case highlights the cruel and arbitrary nature of this government’s benefit sanctions regime. How can it be possible that a woman in a coma has her support withdrawn and is thrown into penury as a result?
“The government argues that callous attacks such as this have encouraged people back to work. How on earth can people prepare for work when they believe resorting to crime is the only way they can pay for something to eat?”
Coan added, “We also have to remember that these attacks on welfare hurt those who are in work. Unscrupulous bosses who know that their workforce have little or no safety net will be in a much stronger position to exploit them.”
Unite Community is campaigning against sanctions to protect the most vulnerable in our society.