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Compassion wins the day

Unite Community beats sanction injustices
Barckley Sumner, Thursday, July 27th, 2017

A new report has revealed the staggering success of Unite Community members in overturning wrongly implemented benefits sanctions in Newcastle and the north east.


The newly published annual report from the Tyne and Wear Centre Against Unemployment, based in Newcastle and which is principally operated by volunteers from Unite’s Community section, has recorded a staggering 82 per cent success rate when appealing against benefits sanctions.


The 82 per cent success rate is well above the national average of a 63 per cent success rate when appealing against benefit sanctions.


Cases won by the centre include the case of a woman born in the 1960s with a thalidomide-related condition who has no forearms and only two fingers on each hand, who cannot touch her face. She had her Personal Independence Payments (PIP) withdrawn as she was recorded as having zero points and it was wrongly recorded she could feed herself.


Following support from her MP the benefit was reinstated only to be withdrawn again. A volunteer from the centre represented her at the appeal and her benefit was permanently restored.


In a another case a man in his 50s who was starved of oxygen at birth and has a lifetime of special needs requirements, meaning that he could not complete the assessment form, was awarded zero points and had his Disabled Living Allowance withdrawn.


Appeal won

The paperwork was completed by a volunteer, an appeal was lodged and won. The man and his mother were then able to resume their lives, without the financial worries that had unexpectedly beset them.


A further case was that of a young man in his 20s who sought assistance initially in a workplace bullying case. He had been bullied by his manager out of his position as a nurse and his mental state had further deteriorated because his PiP had been stopped.


He was assisted by several volunteers, one helped him with reinstating his benefit, while another represented him in an employment tribunal. He also attended several debt-management sessions and was trained to give the sessions himself. He has now returned to the workplace and his original boss was dismissed.


Unite Community volunteers

The volunteers at the centre who are all members of Unite Community provide advice and assistance on a wide range of advice including benefits, employment and debt management.


“This report demonstrates the incredible work that is being undertaken by Unite community members at the Tyne and Wear Centre Against Unemployment,” commented John Coan, Unite community co-ordinator for the north east, Yorkshire and Humberside.


“Their successes in overturning benefit sanctions have transformed many people’s lives for the better.


“Yet despite our successes these figures provide no comfort, the cases our volunteers are dealing with are simply the tip of the iceberg and for every case we deal with there must be hundreds of wrongly applied sanctions which go unchallenged, subjecting vulnerable people to a miserable existence,” he said.


Coan continued, “The wholesale wrongful sanctioning of people’s benefits is an entirely immoral policy and if the government had an ounce of compassion the entire policy would be withdrawn.


“The government is now intent on rolling out universal credit which is going to force applicants to apply online. This could lead to a potential rise in incorrect benefit refusals and there is going to be an even greater need for benefit advice and assistance.”


But thanks to the success of the centre the volunteers are operating at full capacity and are urgently seeking additional support. If you live in the Tyne and Wear Region and would like to volunteer please contact the centre Tyne and Wear Centre Against Unemployment.


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