Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, will tomorrow (4 February) launch a new campaign to put an end to “cruel and ineffective” benefit sanctions.
Their campaign will be launched on the same day as the Work and Pensions Select Committee hears evidence from Tory Employment Minister Esther McVey.
Unite say they are ‘angry’ about the way the Government imposes punitive benefit sanctions on ‘vulnerable people’ – leaving millions in poverty, debt and negatively impacting upon their health and well-being.
They are calling on unions, charities and campaigners to take part in a ‘National Day of Action’ against benefit sanctions, together with Unite community membership.
Figures show more than 900,000 jobseekers have been hit by benefit sanctions up to December 2014. Official data also reveals a ‘shocking increase‘ in the number of sick and disabled people having their benefits docked.
Campaigners claim unemployed and vulnerable people are often sanctioned for ‘ridiculous’ reasons. Sanctions can last for several weeks or months, with the maximum penalty lasting for three years.
Affected claimants can apply for hardship payments, but a positive decision is not guaranteed and payments are much lower than they would have received in benefits.
The charity Trussell Trust has cited delays in benefit payments (including sanctions) as the main reason people turn to food banks.
Unite head of community membership, Liane Groves, said:
“It is no wonder people are angry. The government has hit millions of vulnerable people and their families with benefit sanctions – causing the rise of food bank Britain.
“Sanctions are cruel and ineffective – often handed out for no good reason.
“We want to send a message to Esther McVey and Westminster that the government is failing to support vulnerable people in our society. More needs to be done to support us all in time of need – not make personal situations worse.
“Thursday 19 March is a national day of action to highlight the ‘shocking’ impact of government benefit sanctions – we must join forces to stop this now before more people are forced into poverty.”
Last edited at 4:34am, 4 February 2015, to correct a spelling error.