The cost to job seekers of having their benefit payments stopped has rocketed by 3,000% under the Tory-led coalition Government, new figures show.
Analysis of Government figures by the PCS union reveals that the value of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payments sanctioned in the year to September 2014 was £355 million, compared to just £11 million in 2009/2010.
PCS says the shocking figure explains why benefit sanctions have been directly linked to a surge in food bank users.
The food bank charity Trussell Trust supported more than 913,000 people with three-days worth of emergency food in 2013/14.
The new research from PCS is published ahead of a Dispatches investigation to be broadcast this evening into the government’s sanctions regime.
The documentary will feature details of a new report from a coalition of major churches, which reveals that nearly 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions last year.
Under changes to the sanctions regime, the length of time sanctions can be imposed for has increased, with the minimum set at four weeks, rising to 13 weeks and up to three years.
Opponents of the new system say unemployed people are being unfairly “vilified” and demonised for economic problems not of their making.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This government is imposing much harsher penalties on people who rely on social security at the same time as seeking to blame and vilify them for being out of work.
“Sanctions do nothing to help unemployed people find sustainable jobs. They only poison the relationship between claimants and jobcentre staff, and they should be scrapped immediately.”
Commenting on the impact of benefit sanction on Britain’s poorest children, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Something has gone badly wrong when 100,000 children are innocent victims of benefit sanctions.
“Under this government the sanctions system has become a cruel maze in which it is all too easy for claimants to lose cash for minor breaches of rules and random decisions.
“Even those who have contributed for years and are working hard to get a new job can find themselves sanctioned, and driven to food banks.
“There are now huge holes in the welfare safety net that whole families are falling through.
“And Jobcentre staff have been forced to moved away from providing positive help to meeting sanctions targets in a culture that is too often about bullying both frontline staff and claimants.”