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Shocking and cruel

Benefits sanctions responsible for human tragedies
Jody Whitehill, Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Cameron’s welfare system is already abundant with human tragedies and shocking tales of the cruel treatment that people on benefits have faced.


Yet it is common knowledge that the Tories will cut benefits even further if they regain power on May 7.


Unite is committed in its fight against Cameron’s sanctions regime and held a recent day of action with events up and down the country. Hundreds gathered outside the DWP to protest.


Sanctions have resulted in over two million people having their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning over the past two years, leading to increased poverty, misery and even death.


“People are dying and committing suicide as a direct result of these cruel and ruthless sanctions,” said Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary.


“Sanctions are a disgraceful attack by the government on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They are used to intimidate, humiliate and threaten people into work they are often unfit to do in order to maintain their benefits,” he added.


One of the worst examples is that of diabetic ex-solider David Clapson from Stevenage, who died with just six teabags, a tin of soup and out-of-date sardines in his cupboard.


David missed just one meeting at a job centre. Without his £71.70 a week jobseekers’ allowance he couldn’t afford to put credit on his electricity card and keep his insulin at the correct temperature in the fridge.


Another devastating example is that of a man who missed an appointment because he was at the hospital with his partner, who had just given birth to their stillborn baby.


“The Tories talk about lifting people out of poverty while in fact pushing them further and further towards the breadline,” said Steve.




Sanctions are forcing people in their hundreds to the foodbanks to feed their families. People are also being forced to use clothing banks as they cannot even afford charity shop prices.


“But what is even more worrying is the knock-on effect the system has on the rest of the society. Those who are in work and especially those on low wages as it’s a constant threat and a warning of what might happen to you if you don’t accept rock bottom wages and appalling terms and conditions,” added Steve.


The following 10 heart-breaking reasons people on benefits have been sanctioned explain the current appalling situation even more. They are unbelievable but tragically they are true.


They were reported in the Daily Mirror (April 21).


1. A man who missed an appointment because he was in hospital with his partner, who had just had a stillborn child.


2. A man who carried out 60 job searches but missed one which matched his profile. Attention was given to that one and the other 60 were ignored.


3. A young couple who failed to receive letters about a missed appointment because their address was registered wrongly with the DWP.


4. “Several cases” of people who turned up to appointments a few minutes late because of bus delays – even though they faced lengthy waits for appointments when they arrived on time.


5. A man who was due to start a new job in three weeks, but was sanctioned because benefits advisors said he still had to send his CV to other firms in the meantime.


6. A homeless young man who was awaiting paperwork to be able to drive an HGV but was told he had not carried out an adequate job search.


7. A young man who only completed five job searches when it should have been more, and told foodbank staff: ‘It has totally broken my spirit’.


8. Another young man with learning difficulties who wrote helplessly, “My money keeps getting stopped for some reason and I don’t know why”.


9. A man who found a job but was sanctioned for not jobseeking while he waited for it to start. That meant he didn’t have enough cash to get to his new job, so he was sacked.


10. A woman whose husband suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent two dates for the same appointment, but was sanctioned for ‘not turning up’ to the second one despite the benefits office telling him not to.


The family – who also care for a mother with Parkinson’s and were hit by the bedroom tax – lived on £50 a week for three months before the sanctions were overturned.


The mum, Suzanne, told the Trussell Trust, “It’s heartbreaking to open the kitchen cupboards and struggle to feed my boys.


“I never thought I’d be in this situation. I used to take people to foodbanks when I was a social worker. It is nice to have someone offering real help.”

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