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Unfair treatment: The sick and disabled are used to poor behaviour from the Department for Work and Pensions, from the rigged ‘work capability assessment’ scheme to the current revelation that sanctions against them have rocketed.

The BBC is reporting a “shocking” rise in the number of sanctions given to those who receive a key sickness benefit, according to homeless charity Crisis.

Official figures for the first quarter of 2014 showed sanctions on Employment and Support Allowance claimants were 4.5 times higher than in the same quarter in 2013 – although the 2014 figure still includes claimants who are appealing,” according to the BBC News website.

“In the first three months of 2014, there were 15,955 sanctions on ESA claimants, compared with 3,574 in the same period last year.” That’s three per cent of the 552,000 claimants in the Work-Related Activity group (the only ESA group that can be sanctioned) – uncannily close to the five per cent sanction target allegedly operated by Job Centre Plus workers on Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants.

We have almost-confirmation within the BBC article, where “a spokeswoman said that around six per cent of all JSA claimants receive a sanction, with the most common reason being the benefit claimant failing to actively look for a job”.

Failing to actively look for a job? What about the jobseeker who arrived at a Job Centre appointment nine minutes late – after attending a job interview – and was sanctioned for a month? There are many other accounts of similar idiocies and it seems likely that ESA may be contaminated with the same “sanction wherever possible” culture.

Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes said: “Disabled people are being sanctioned for things like missing interviews with advisers. How often do sanctions take into account the reality of disabled people’s lives? Interviews with advisers can clash with medical appointments and inaccessible transport can make attendance extremely difficult.”

But the DWP is sticking to its line: “Under the sanctions, benefits can be docked temporarily. Ministers said they were a last resort.”

Last resort? Or first opportunity? Expreience suggests the latter.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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