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Unemployed Scots losing benefits in harsh Jobcentre crackdown

17 Oct 2012

Thousands of unemployed Scots are suffering extreme hardship due to a harsh new clampdown on Jobseekers, according to a new report by Citizens Advice Scotland.

The attached report shows that Scotland’s jobcentres are becoming more and more strict in punishing people who allegedly don’t do enough to find work.In April 2012, over 240 ‘sanctions’ were applied to jobseekers in Scotland every working day. As a result, thousands of Scots are at risk of being pushed into poverty and debt – despite the fact that many of the alleged ‘offences’ can be very minor, unproven or not the fault of the claimant at all.

And from next week, the regime will become even more harsh, with jobcentres being given the power to stop a claimant’s benefit payments for a minimum of 13 weeks.

Publishing the report today (Wednesday), CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,

People who receive JobSeekers Allowance (JSA) have a responsibility to fulfil their side of the deal and actively seek work. Nobody disagrees with that. What concerns us here is that there has been a massive increase in the numbers of people who have been sanctioned - many of them without adequate reason – and the consequence is that they are pushed into severe poverty.

“JSA claimants are struggling at financial crisis-point to begin with. It is only a small payment (£71 per week for those over 25, and £53 for those under 25), but people rely on it to feed themselves and pay the essential bills. So to lose it, for a period of weeks or even months, is simply devastating.  

“Forced into destitution, people have to rely on extreme measures like charity food parcels. But these are only available for short periods, so many have no option but to take out high-interest loans just to get by, and this of course sets up massive problems for their future because they have no way of paying that money back and the interest just rockets out of control.”

The report makes the point that sanctions don’t just affect the claimant, but their children and other dependents as well. Margaret Lynch continues:

“Some will no doubt say that sanctions are a good thing and that people who don’t seek work deserve all they get. But in fact many of the cases we see are people who have been sanctioned for very unfair reasons. For example, a person might miss an appointment due to genuine illness or bereavement, or because they rely on public transport which failed to get them there on time. These are the sort of reasons for which people get their money stopped. And indeed a number of alleged offences can be traced back to administrative errors by the jobcentre itself.

(see case studies below, and in the report)

“But even if a claimant has really missed an appointment or failed to apply for a particular job, the ‘punishment’ of losing their income doesn’t just hit them but their children as well. We don’t think pushing people into extreme hardship is the answer. Overall, this is just another example of how these welfare reforms are targeting those who are already vulnerable, and making things even worse for them.”

The report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

To arrange interviews etc please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655

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