SNP calls for immediate halt to all benefit sanctions

The Scottish governing party has called for a moratorium on the benefit cuts

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The Government must immediately stop all benefit sanctions until the system can be properly reformed, the Scottish National Party has said.

SNP welfare spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford made the call in response to reports that DWP staff were being put under pressure to hit targets for the number of people whose benefits are stopped.

“All sanctions need to be halted immediately until a fundamental root and branch independent review of the DWP’s sanctions and conditionality can be carried out,” she said in a statement.

“There is clearly a culture of pressure within the DWP which forces staff to refer people for sanctions for fear of retribution against themselves.

“Staff should instead be encouraged to make well-thought through decisions in the first place which would allow more people to move through the system and there would be less people desperately waiting to find out if they will have enough to make ends meet.”

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Sanctions have been blamed for significant hardship (Getty Images)

The MP highlighted that DWP figures show half of all sanctions for Jobseekers’ Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance were later overturned at appeal.

The call comes a week after revelations that the DWP invented fake quotes from people in a leaflet about sanctions – a policy which involves stopping temporarily stopping a person’s benefits.

The sanctions system has been criticised for causing extreme hardship and being operated in an unfair and arbitrary way.

In March this year Parliament's Work and Pensions Select Committee said there was evidence that sanctions were geared towards punishing people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work.

 

The MPs said there was evidence that the benefit cuts for unemployed people caused more problems than they solved and might be "purely punitive".

Previous widely-criticised decisions include people being sanctioned for missing jobcentre appointments because they had to attend a job interview, or people sanctioned for not looking for work because they had already secured a job due to start in a week’s time.

In one case a man with heart problems was sanctioned because he had a heart attack during a disability benefits assessment and thus failed to complete the assessment.

Charities including Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation say the sanctions are responsible for a significant increase in homelessness and rough sleeping in Britain under David Cameron's government.

The DWP says most people are not sanctioned and that the policy only applies to people who do not follow its rules.

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