The Benefit Sanctions Regime (Entitlement to Hardship Payments) Bill is a Private Members' Bill introduced by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP. It would ensure that hardship payments are available to claimants who have had their benefit sanctioned from day one of a sanction period, and that such payments would be made automatically.
Our evidence shows that too often the current system of benefit sanctions is leaving many of our clients facing destitution and crisis. While Citizens Advice Scotland does not in principle object to the use of sanctions in appropriate cases as a last resort, we strongly believe that no one should ever be left without any income at all. People should be able to meet essential living costs and, at the very least, be able to eat and heat their homes.
The current system of hardship payments, which is intended to ensure that people are able to afford basic necessities such as food and accommodation, is failing to fully mitigate the risk of severe hardship arising from sanctions. In particular, the two-week waiting period for most claimants, as well as the application process itself, often mean that people are left without any income and have to rely on other emergency support, such as food banks, borrow money from family and friends or take out formal loans, including payday loans.
While CAS believes that an independent review of the entire sanctions regime is needed as a matter of urgency, this Bill would address some of the key problems with the current hardship payments system and should reduce the number of people facing severe hardship as a result of benefit sanctions.