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New report exposes full impact of benefit sanctions

1 Jul 2014

Thousands of sick, disabled and unemployed Scots are being left in poverty as their benefit payments are stopped - according to Citizens Advice Scotland. 

In a new report published today (Tuesday 1st July) CAS show that many people hit by benefit 'sanctions' are forced into poverty and ill health, often having to rely on foodbanks. The report also reveals that many people who are hit by a sanction are not told the reason for it, or how to appeal against it.   

Our report is one of the most detailed examinations of the impact of sanctions in Scotland so far. It is based on real case evidence from across the Scottish CAB service (see case studies below), and also includes the findings of a survey of Scottish CAB advisers. These include:

  • 94 per cent of Scottish CAB advisers say they have seen an increase in people coming to the CAB in the last two years because of benefit sanctions.
  • 97% of our advisers say claimants skip meals because of being sanctioned, and 90% say that sanctions have led directly to an increase in demand for foodbanks.
  • 60% of our advisers say claimants generally don’t receive notification of their sanction in advance, and 90% say that claimants do not generally understand the reasons for the sanction or how to avoid them in future.
  • Our advisers say that people under 25, disabled people, and single people were most likely to be affected by sanctions.  

In her foreword to the report, CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says, 

“Being sanctioned means your benefit money is stopped. From a minimum of a week to as long as three years. That is the money that you live on. The money that you use to heat your home, feed and clothe yourself and your family, pay your bills, pay for travel, to get to the JobCentre and to look for work. 

“Can you imagine what it must be like to have that money taken away? To do without an income? Take it one step further and think about what it would mean to have your income stopped and not know why, not know for how long , and not know what you can do about it. 

“That is the reality faced by many of the clients CAB see every day. For some they don’t know why, for others they may know why but it was due to unavoidable circumstances.  Circumstances such as being  unable to access or use computers or missing appointments they had not been notified for, or because they didn’t receive a letter. Others simply don’t understand a complex sanctions regime which is not communicated clearly or simply. The result though is that people are left bereft of their income and not sure where to turn. 

“This report not only gives the details of these recommendations to the system, but also why we need it. It provides an analysis of the current system, its impact on clients and provides case studies from our CAB offices around Scotland - real life stories of circumstances which I find absolutely unacceptable for anyone to have to live with. 

“I hope this report will prove to be a stark warning about the changes that urgently need to be made to the sanctions regime, and show why CAS will continue to campaign for those changes on behalf of the citizens of Scotland.” 

The full report, ‘Sanctioned – What Benefit?’ is attached.

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