Britain’s biggest union is demanding an immediate end to the ‘grotesque cruelty’ of the coalition government’s benefit sanctions regime.
Unite will hold a demonstration against benefit sanctions outside the Department for Work on Pensions (DWP) on Thursday (19 March 2015).
According to the union, sanctions have resulted in over two million poor and vulnerable people having their benefit payments stopped – leading to poverty, misery and even death.
In London the total number of sanctions dealt out by the DWP from October 2012 to September 2013 was 130,442 and 103,679 between October 2013 and September 2014.
Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned will be handing in her 211,822-name petition at the DWP. The petition calls on the government to investigate what others have described as a growing ‘sanctions culture’ in Jobcentres.
Mr Clapson, a diabetic and former soldier, was left starving and destitute after his benefits were stopped for missing a Jobcentre appointment.
His sister Gill said: “Benefit sanctions are completely out of control.
“I want to know how ministers who state everything is done to support the vulnerable can justify their actions leaving people destitute, driving them to food banks, and leading to starvation and death.
“Do we want to live in a society where the vulnerable are victimised – I certainly do not.”
The government continue to deny the existence of targets or that Jobcentre staff are pressurised into imposing benefit sanctions.
Unite say they are not prepared to ‘stand idle’ while the government ‘mercilessly targets those already struggling to make ends meet’.
They have vowed to protest across London before moving to DWP headquarters for a further demonstration between 3pm and 5pm this Thursday (19 March).
Unite Community national organiser Liane Groves said: “This government is attacking the unemployed for unemployment and treating claimants worse than criminals fined in the courts.
“Decisions on guilt are made in secret with the claimant not even allowed to be present to explain their case.
“Far from helping people back into work, sanctions undermine physical and mental health. They cause hardship, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to food banks, payday lenders, and to crime.
“There is no justification for this grotesque cruelty by the government.
“Unite is calling on the DWP to end benefit sanctions as this situation can’t be allowed to go on in the 6th richest country in the world.”