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The mainstream media are at last turning their attention to the harmful effects of DWP sanctions, with this report from The Guardian explaining how sanctions can plunge families into financial crisis, hunger, and dependency on food banks for up to half a year, far longer than the period for which they have had payments stopped, according to a new study.

Thanks to Nick Rhodes for editing the graph showing the rise of food bank use, to add in the most recent increases. The height of the image speaks for itself.

Thanks to Nick Rhodes for editing the graph showing the rise of food bank use, to add in the most recent increases. The height of the image speaks for itself.

The study, Cheshire Hunger looked in detail at the reasons why people had been given food bank vouchers and estimated the length of time they would be dependent on food aid.

It adds to a growing body of evidence directly linking welfare reforms with food bank use, and comes as a coalition of major churches call for an overhaul of the “inhumane” sanctions system.

The study, carried out by West Cheshire food bank along with the Trussell trust and the University of Chester, examined 1,711 referrals to West Cheshire food bank over a seven month period last year. It found:

  • Administrative and other delays accounted for 23% of referrals and typically caused a crisis lasting between one and four weeks.
  • Sanctions accounted for 11% of referrals and usually placed households in a crisis situation for between one and 13 weeks.
  • Benefit Changes accounted for 9% of referrals and crisis typically lasted between one and four weeks.
  • Employment Support Allowance stoppages accounted for 4% of referrals and typically lasted between two and 13 weeks.
  • The biggest crisis category other than benefit delays and sanctions was low income and debt (31%) caused typically by high utility bills and housing costs, with crises lasting one to four weeks.

Of those food bank clients whose primary crisis was caused by sanctions, half were pushed into financial difficulty for two to three weeks, while a fifth were expected to be in crisis for 13-26 weeks.

Unlike benefit delays, where in theory claimants can receive backdated payments to cover the period when they were without income, sanctions left already vulnerable recipients struggling with a massive hole in their finances which they had often filled with expensive credit, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

Read the full article in The Guardian.

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