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CAS backs MPs call for review of benefit sanctions

24 Mar 2015

Citizens Advice Scotland has backed the call by the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee today (Tuesday) for a full independent review of benefit sanctions. 

CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee says,

“We welcome today’s report, in particular the call for a broad independent review. We have ourselves been calling for such a review for a long time, as it clear from CAB evidence that the current sanction regime is nowhere near fit for purpose.  

“In principle, CAS does not object to the use of sanctions – but we believe they must be applied appropriately, with discretion and only as a last resort. Our evidence shows that often they are being applied unfairly and without warning or explanation, leaving people with very little money or none at all for long periods.

“Such sanctions are not only damaging to people, but they actually fail in the objective of getting people into work. For example, claimants who have been sanctioned can be left with no money at all, meaning they are unable to travel or to make themselves presentable for interviews or training, or to buy mobile phone credit to contact employers. This is a clear impediment to someone’s ability to find a job.

“This fundamental review needs to be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Over recent years, sanctions have increased significantly in length, severity and number. Between the end of 2012 and September 2014, over 150,000 sanctions have been applied in Scotland, affecting over 85,000 individuals. As the number of people being sanctioned has increased, more people have been coming to CAB help. In 2013-14, Scottish CAB advisers dealt with over 4,500 sanctions issues.

“Our evidence from those cases suggests that the loss of income brought about by a sanction causes severe hardship, a rise in the number of foodbank referrals, is putting tenancies and debt repayments at risk and in some cases is having a severe impact on claimants’ health and wellbeing. We strongly believe that a claimant should never be left with no income at all. At the very least people should be able to eat and heat their homes.”

For more details, interviews etc. please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.

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