We *can* beat ‘evil’ benefit sanctions

austeritydolequeue

No less than two stories floated across the Vox Political desktop this morning to ensure that the big story of the day would not be the EU’s attempt to extort money from David Cameron*.

Both these stories concerned unfortunate UK citizens who had been forced to steal food after the Job Centre had sanctioned their benefits for missing appointments – not for job interviews, but with Job Centre staff.

Recovering drug addict Ian Mulholland, 47, is facing the prospect of leg amputation and was unable to attend his Job Centre because his ulcerated legs left him unable to get there. Sanctioned for nine weeks and unable to get to a food bank for the same reason he could not attend the Job Centre, hunger drove him to steal from his local supermarket. He was sentenced to 14 weeks at Her Majesty’s convenience, a lengthier stay than would be expected normally due to previous convictions. The practical upshot is that the taxpayer is now spending more on his upkeep than if he had not been sanctioned.

And Lucy Hill, who is in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance claimants, had no alternative other than to steal food for herself and her family after she missed an appointment with a Job Centre advisor who was supposed to be helping her with the training and skills necessary to get back into work when her health improved enough for her to take a job again. Her benefit was sanctioned as a result.

These stories are appalling indictments against our Tory-led government and its policies, which are intended to hurt people, simply for being poor. It makes no financial sense at all for the authorities to impose conditions on a person’s benefit that are impossible for them to meet (due, in both the cases mentioned, to obvious health problems) and then remove their benefit when they fail to comply, when this only forces them to commit a crime in order to survive, prompting police investigation, prosecution and possibly imprisonment, all at the taxpayers’ expense.

The Coalition’s ministers are supposed to be finding ways of saving money, yet they are clearly prepared to spend it like water if it means they have an opportunity to humiliate the poor.

Fortunately, it seems likely that this attitude has had its day.

Look at this article on the Mulholland case. As far as the author is concerned, Ian Mulholland was not the perpetrator of a crime but the victim – and the government, via its various benefit-withdrawing and law-enforcing arms, was the villain.

Commenters on the Lucy Hill article made it perfectly clear that they supported the defenceless single mum and not the faceless bureaucracy.

People are coming together to oppose these unreasonable, draconian decisions.

And this is good – because it’s how we’re going to beat them.

Remember the JSA claimant mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago? He interviewed for a job lasting 22.5 hours per week and then had to turn it down when managers tried to increase the hours to 40; the hotel told the Job Centre and he was left facing sanctions.

Well, on Wednesday he came to VP Towers in a state of some distress, with a letter from the Job Centre sanctioning his benefit for no less than three months. Fortunately, having seen your responses to the previous article, a course of action was available.

Before he left that afternoon, he had reported the hotel to HM Revenue and Customs for possible tax evasion (declaring tax and NI for only 22.5 hours instead of 40) and had written to the Job Centre decision-makers, explaining that he was innocent of wrong-doing, that he had reported the hotel for breaking the law, and that he wanted his sanction reconsidered.

We won’t identify the person who provided the advice (to save that person’s blushes) but our mutual friend is indebted to that person because he received a telephone call from the Job Centre this morning, apologising for what had happened and assuring him that his benefit would be reinstated.

It is possible to beat the bureaucrats, if we pool our knowledge and resources.

That is why it is important for cases like these to be brought to public attention – to make it possible for people with the necessary knowledge and skills to come forward and provide the help that is needed. In this case, it came from an individual with specialist knowledge; there are also Facebook groups such as Fightback and 4UP (and others, no doubt – Job Seeker Sanction Advice has been flagged up as another good one).

The help these people and groups provide is only a temporary, stop-gap solution. In the end, we must decide – as a society – to reject the small-minded, despotic attitude that induces governments to impose impossible conditions on benefit claimants, and we must demand a fairer deal for those who are least able to negotiate it for themselves.

That has to happen through pressure on political parties, and then at the ballot box.

But this – this is a start.

* Or was the EU just calling Call-Me-Dave’s bluff? Cameron has been crowing that the economy is purring along wonderfully but tax takings are down, meaning the State is not benefiting at all – and that is the only measure of success that the European Union will accept. What we’re being told is that the UK economy is not succeeding because the UK Treasury has nothing to show for it.

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18 thoughts on “We *can* beat ‘evil’ benefit sanctions

  1. Jeffrey Davies

    ah with so many tales told so many bare faced lies said by cams and co his liitle ploy that everys thing rossie in his garden it seems the eu believes him is now holding out its hand asking for that bit extra 1point 6 billion extra through his lies wonder his he chooking jeff3

    1. David Shears

      Ironic isn’t it? Cam obviously feels its ok to misrepresent the goverment’s income in order to obtain benefits.

  2. Joan Edington

    I doubt if anyone in the EU actually believes that the UK economy is growing. I would think that they are simply so fed up with Cameron’s posturing about being hard on the EU or leaving that they just want to teach the overgrown school bully a lesson.

    1. Maria

      Nah they had better morals, I think Britain has regressed to medieval times, no I change my mind, its seems the whole world has regressed back to them times. Its only technology that is still modern.

  3. Michele Witchy Eve

    Heartening post, Mike, and some glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak future for so many people. Thank you.

    Apropos Cameron and his little EU problem, I nearly choked on me tea this afternoon as I listened to the gross hypocrisy of the man, tub-thumping and tantrum, going on about the “huge sum” of £1.6bn being asked for by the EU – and to paid by the tax payer no less, he says all a-bluster and indignant. It’s a real pity he didn’t feel the same way about the £bns of tax-payers’ money he’s been spending on the likes of tax cuts, health cuts, welfare cuts and spending on useless projects (even while we exclude the controversial topic of wars) just to name a few. The man has no sense of shame.

  4. Stephen Tamblin

    Yes I agree these tory lying sons of bitches are telling every body a pack of lies shorly the public don’t believe any thing the Torys say any one can see thay are stitching up all of us thay think we don’t know

  5. amnesiaclinic

    Fantastic!! This is exactly how we can beat this vindictive, cruel nonsense by all coming together to share our knowledge, expertise and skills!
    Bravo!!
    Love,
    x

  6. Chris

    As the EU has demanded £1.6 billion extra funding to Europe’s government, then perhaps the funding for the food banks denied back in 2013 from the EU, might now be paid to Fareshare, the source of surplus food to food banks.
    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/17/government-under-fire-eu-funding-food-banks

    The UK is the only nation within the EU that does not provide daily free cafes
    providing free cooked hot meals and hot drinks, mostly to the poor in work, poor pensioners, as well as the unemployed, including the over 50s disabled/chronic sick with little chance of re-employment in life.

    It is not universal to get the 3 food vouchers in a year in UK, if sanctioned off benefit.

    The UK government could ask the EU to provide these free cafes direct in England, using the 400,000 tonnes of surplus food lost to Fareshare, because the government will not subsidise that charity, but only the private profit making energy from waste companies that burn still edible food.

    Where did that information get printed?

    The newspaper of the rich, The Times,
    who know from history to feed the poor.

    Something that politicians cannot comprehend.

    The private profit making energy from waste could collect direct from households the food that is inedible and rotten, by the millions of tonnes wasted today, in mixed wheelie bins. To no cost to cash strapped councils.

    Why is Labour not providing free cafes as part of its election campaign strategy, to feed the poor and solve the cost of living problem of starvation, that has risen 70 per cent since 2010, to the point where doctors are saying again and again that there has been a huge rise in malnutrition hospital admissions?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You mean, “why is Labour not offering to provide free cafes, if elected”? Probably because Labour hopes to make them unnecessary.
      Your comment is also slightly confusing as it does not make it clear that the EU did not deny the money to the UK; David Cameron intentionally refused to ask for it.

  7. Guy Ropes

    Is it conceivable that the Government who are running the Country for us are/were totally unaware of the EU regulations which could be invoked to make such a demand being made on us or unaware of the precise details of the demand before today ? Lie upon lie upon lie. Cameron’s ‘outrage’ is false. Simply more unadulterated crap.

  8. Jim Round

    Anyone know if any close relative, son daughter etc… of any MP’s or other members of the ruling classes claim JSA, ESA or are on the work programme?
    Probably none, and there lies the problem, why bother with the proles when everything is a jolly good show at home.
    This attitude unfortunately prevails through all levels of society, something that I have commented on before.
    It always makes me think, there is endless money to bomb brown people, give away to corporations and spend on useless vanity projects, but when it comes to devising a fit and proper welfare system, the money has ran out.

  9. jray

    Bit of a dilemma, I have been lucky enough to stay with friends,sofa surfing,I draw JSA apparently the only benefit that I am allowed,fair enough. I have been “told” not given a letter by JCP to expect a home visit to inspect the premises and that I am required to have my bank statement available,I produced a copy then and there to save them the trouble. I was informed that I also needed to produce utility bills. I explained that they were not in my name as I am staying as a guest. They now want the couple that I am staying with to produce all their bank statements, bills and lease (they draw no benefits). They/I have refused, although I have not been sanctioned; there was an underlying threat that JSA could be withdrawn?…Is this possible?

    1. Michele Witchy Eve

      Only in the sense that every time IDS opens his mouth or enacts one of his favoured policies it is Christ’s name that naturally springs to one’s lips in absolute exasperation at the mendacity and maliciousness of IDS.

  10. HardLove

    As someone who has been jobless, had addiction and health problems I cannot agree with this article. The ‘hard love’ approach is required, not a nanny state supporting one’s problems.
    People must turn of for interviews, and if not provide a valid reason (doctors letter) why they cannot. Everybody can pick up the phone, write a letter or email.
    This article may be well meant, but it causes more damage than good.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      What utter rubbish. The point is that all the people mentioned in the article did have valid reasons for what they had done, but these were not accepted by the drones at the Job Centre. The incident involving my friend makes it very clear that the Job Centre people were wrong to ignore what he was saying, as they had to apologise and make reparations immediately.
      Not everybody has access to a telephone or to email. Letters take at least a day to arrive and, by then, the damage could be done.
      Nobody argued for your “nanny state” – all they wanted was reasonable behaviour from staff at the Job Centre. Being reasonable is not being “a nanny state”.
      The article’s conclusion is that, faced with such unreasonable responses, it is necessary for people to join together, first pooling their resources to ensure that sanctions can be defeated, and then using their vote to get rid of the despotic government that has imposed such a punitive system on us all.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        In fact, I question the motives of the person who wrote this comment. It’s an established Tory-agent trick to start any counter-argument by claiming to be a member of the affected group – like a person who has been jobless, had addiction problems or trouble with their health. This is usually followed by a statement in support of the Tory-imposed system. Use of the term “nanny state” supports my theory.

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