The SNP has urged the Tory government to scrap the current punitive sanctions regime immediately so no-one is left to “survive on fresh air” over Christmas in the middle of a global health pandemic and economic crisis.
The SNP’s Fair Work and Employment spokesperson, Chris Stephens MP – who also sits on the Work and Pensions Select Committee – has slammed the Tory sanctions regime for “punishing the poor”.
According to research carried out by the House of Commons Library, between April 2019 and March 2020 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) imposed sanctions on nearly a quarter million people in the UK in receipt of Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.
The DWP does not record how much it takes away from households in benefit sanctions.
In July, the Tory government chose to reinstate their punitive sanctions regime – after rightly suspending it at the beginning of the pandemic – despite warnings that doing so would risk lives and do nothing to support people back into work.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has introduced Fair Start Scotland – a long term employment support approach for people with significant barriers to employment – who have been failed by UK government programmes – in which participation is voluntary and participants cannot be sanctioned. The SNP has said Westminster must introduce equivalent programmes.
Commenting, Chris Stephens MP said: “Scrooge and the Grinch have nothing on the Tories. To continue with benefit sanctions in the middle of an economic crisis and through Christmas is heartless.
“There is no evidence that any length of sanction is beneficial to claimants or helping people into work – there is plenty to show that sanctions push people into hardship and to foodbanks.
“The Tories at Westminster are so out-of-touch with reality that they expect people to live on fresh air – and at a time, which is for many, the most expensive time of year.
“The unfair and unwarranted Tory sanctions – which are punishing the poorest members of our society – must come to an end immediately. The SNP has been calling for the entire sanctions regime to be scrapped for years.
“The Tories have proven time and again that following Scotland’s lead and building a social security system based on dignity and respect is not part of their agenda.
“This is why Scotland must have the full powers of independence – to build a fairer society for all.”