Sanction n. ~ A threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule – a common enough word we hear for example let’s impose economic sanctions on Russia by for example not allowing the import of caviar, or let’s sanction South Africa for apartheid by denying a cricket match with England.
That is its normative use. But how about let’s sanction benefit claimants by not giving them any money whatsoever for three years
That version of the noun ‘sanction’ is what we have in the UK. A sanction means anyone on welfare benefits is not given any money whatsoever and takes the form of 3 weeks for a first offence, 3 months for a second offence and 3 years for a third offence. Yes that’s right NO MONEY WHATSOEVER for up to 3 years.
The benefit claimant must have to commit a heinous transgression to have a sanction imposed you may think?How does being ten minutes early for an appointment instead of 15 minutes early become a penalty of you are getting no money whatsoever for 21 days and have to live on thin air sound? How about you attended your grandmothers funeral? You law breaking bastard that is 90 days without a penny in benefits…and no we don’t give a shit if you have children either.
How about these decisions are made by lowly civil servants who are pressurised to impose such sanctions and have targets to impose them and with no regard whatsoever to whether a child will starve to death because of them?
How about there is no right to appeal these?
How about the decisions are taken behind closed doors with the claimant not being present to offer any defence for these ‘outrageous’ transgressions?
How about as one academic report I read over the weekend here says that the total amount of benefits sanctioned by these civil servants is MORE than the cost of court fines issued by judges who by law have to leave you enough money to live on and feed your children?
Hardly surprising and very valid that this report was called Benefit Sanctions: Britain’s Secret Penal System which I urge you read and the simple graph included in this short and accessible article by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies says it all…
I want to hammer home just one point to the public.
A Benefit Sanction means NOT A PENNY GIVEN IN BENEFITS
It does not mean a 10% cut, a 20% cut, a 50% cut in welfare benefits it means a 100% CUT.
AND it may mean despite not being given a penny the benefit claimant still has to attend the job centre (the place which imposed the sanction) on a daily basis even if you do not have the bus fare to get there and even if they set the time at 3.30pm or 9am when you have to take and pick up the children from school.
Social media is full of cases of why sanctions have been imposed and being only ten minutes early or attending your grandmothers funeral are NOT the worst reasons for their imposition, far from it, and they are typical sanctions which lead to getting NO MONEY WHATSOEVER for 21 days or 90 days or 1,095 days.
It is hard to believe that people get ALL OF THEIR INCOME TAKEN AWAY if they ‘transgress’ in these tiny areas
How about this selection from http://stupidsanctions.tumblr.com/
You’re a 60-year-old army veteran who volunteers to sell poppies for the Royal British Legion in memory of fallen comrades. You’ve applied for dozens of jobs – including the supermarket where you sold the poppies – but without success. You are sanctioned for four weeks.
Source: Daily Mirror
You get a job interview. It’s at the same time as your job centre appointment, so you reschedule the job centre. You attend your rearranged appointment and then get a letter saying your benefits will be stopped because going to a job interview isn’t a good enough reason to miss an appointment.
Source: Daily Mail
Your gran dies during the night. The next morning your partner calls the job centre and asks if you can come in the following day instead. The centre agrees, and you sign in the next day. Then you get a letter stating that you failed to sign in and would be sanctioned if you don’t reply within seven days. You reply, explaining the situation. The job centre gives you a six-week sanction for not replying.
Source: Mari-claire M at Netmums
You are forced to retire due to a heart condition, and you claim Employment and Support Allowance. During your assessment you have a heart attack. You are sanctioned for not completing your assessment.
Source: Debbie Abrahams MP
Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has “expired” so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.
Source: Penny at Yahoo! Answers
And there are many more thousands of similar tales across social media from MPs from Citizens Advice and from scores of other sources.
Now go back and read them again and instead of reading the word ‘sanction’ read NO MONEY WHATSOEVER AND WE DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU HAVE TO PUT FOOD IN YOUR CHILDREN’S MOUTHS.
Take the last one a sanction for 13 weeks, sorry 91 days without any money whatsoever as you refused to apply for a job that had expired and did not exist.
Take the fact that every benefit decision notice has the wording “This is the minimum amount the law says you need to live on” and a judge or court is only allowed to take £5 per week out of this to pay a court fine. YET a non legally trained civil servant who does not like the cut of your jib can take every single penny off you in a totally arbitrary manner.
The Independent has ran articles on this as has every national newspaper including the usually rabid pro-Tory Daily Mail
Ceri Padley, 26, had her benefits sanctioned after she missed an appointment at the jobcentre – because she was at a job interview.
Via the Daily Mail.
Michael, 54, had his benefits sanctioned for four months for failing to undertake a week’s work experience at a charity shop. The charity shop had told him they didn’t want him there.
Via the Guardian.
Read all of the above with the horror they deserve but make sure you read that Michael 54 in the case above received no benefit at all for 120 days.
NO MONEY WHATSOEVER!
Welfare benefit sanctions were introduced by the last Labour government in 2000 and if a claimant is genuinely taking the piss then there is at least some validity in a penalty regime or at least an argument to be had for a penalty regime. Yet look at the graph below which is just for JSA sanctions and ask yourself has the number of scroungers and shirkers increased six-fold or 600% since this coalition came to power? Are there suddenly six shirkers for every one we had before? That is what the figures say and of course the sanctions now are so much stronger too than they were before.
So many academic, parliamentary and other research reports such as the JRF here (pdf) use the language of ‘sanction’ and ‘conditionality’ yet fail to hammer home the point that this means NO MONEY WHATSOEVER.
That is not a ‘sanction’ a threatened penalty for some heinous crime such as Apartheid or murdering your biggest political enemy in cold blood as Putin has done this week, this is killing people through starvation. It is killing British children because mum or dad went to a job interview to get out of the poverty they are in and in doing so were put into abject poverty because some jumped-up prick at a Job Centre hadn’t met their targets for claimants to sanction that week!
THOSE SANCTIONED DON’T GET A PENNY TO FEED THEIR CHILDREN
Sanctions will get worse under Universal Credit as the following explains from Crisis:
Conditionality and sanctions
15. Will conditionality and sanctions change when Universal Credit is introduced?
Yes. There will be more conditionality and much tougher sanctions under UC. In order to receive UC, claimants must sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’. This will set out what the claimant will be expected to do as a condition for receiving UC. This will include work-focused requirements where appropriate.
Failure to comply with a ‘Claimant Commitment’ could result in a reduction in the amount of UC the claimant receives. The sanction amount will be up to 100 per cent of the ‘standard allowance’. Claimants will not be able to receive more than one sanction within a two week period.
For example, UC claimants on the equivalent of JSA, will face the following sanctions:
1. Refusing a job offer
100 per cent reduction in standard allowance of UC for three months
2. Refusing second job offer within a year of the first offence
100 per cent reduction in standard allowance of UC for six months
3. Refusing third job offer within a year of the second offence
100 per cent reduction in standard allowance of UC for three years.
Unlike at present, sanctions will not run concurrently. This means that if a claimant receives the first two sanctions in the table above within say three weeks, they will effectively be sanctioned for nine months.
3 months or 91 days for a first ‘offence’ such as attending a job interview having re-appointed a sign-on or other job centre plus meeting! And all at the whim of a civil servant who may just not like the cut of your jib!
Concurrent sanctions too. So attend an interview and granny’s funeral and its 9 months without a penny.