The reality of the DWP’s horrific sanctions regime


THIS is the story of Paul, believed to be the first person sanctioned for three years by the Department of Work and Pensions in Dundee. Paul has committed no crime but must endure deprivation beyond anything the average prisoner will ever face – with an even longer sentence. That should matter to everyone, because the average Scot without personal savings is just three months away from benefits if they lose their job. And thanks to the punitive sanctions regime, backed by David Cameron and Ruth Davidson, being on benefits these days brings the risk of losing everything.

I met 45-year-old Paul in Dundee Food Bank last week. He doesn’t want his surname used for fear of further penalties. And that’s understandable. He already faces three long years living on just £36 a week. That measly hardship allowance is available because even David Cameron’s welfare state cannot leave claimants completely stony broke. But it’s not the “full” £48 a week either because the DWP is deducting money for past, overpaid claims. The state pays housing benefit and most of Paul’s council tax, though only because support workers made Paul declare his position to Dundee council. Claimants who don’t know they must do that are still liable to pay. From his meagre £36 Paul must pay water and sewerage charges, electricity and gas. He hardly uses heating, preferring to spend the cash on hot water to stay clean and presentable. He has no phone. No computer. No way to replace anything that breaks. And no food. And he must survive like this until September, 2018.

So what on earth did he do to incur the wrath of the DWP?

Paul doesn’t really know.

The DWP sanctions regime doesn’t operate like an angry teacher announcing detention after a specific bit of bad behaviour. Usually claimants go to their bank and simply find no payment. Shortly after that a letter may arrive explaining the length but not the reason for the sanction. You must work that out for yourself.

Read more: Lesley Riddoch: The reality of the DWP’s horrific sanctions regime | Comment | The National

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


15 thoughts on “The reality of the DWP’s horrific sanctions regime

  1. robert fillies

    Welcome back to Victorian Britain where the poor are allowed to starve and the wealthy just keep on getting wealthier. This after all is what our wonderful Tory Government has aspired to since gaining the levers of power in 2010. They won’t stop until they have turned this country back into a serfdom ruled by the rich.

  2. Veracity

    Regrettably, benefit sanctions will remain reserved to Westminster when Scotland gets devolved powers to handle welfare.

    Will benefit sanctions continue be handed out like confetti in Scotland then? The Scottish Government will be a toothless tiger.

  3. Barry Davies

    It’s appalling that this sort of thing happens, but then as we all know because cameron says it like it is something good the tories are there for hard working people, which by definition means if you are not slogging your guts out for someone who is already rich and does no hard work at all you are not worth keeping alive.

  4. Sven Wraight

    I lost all benefits c2005 (under “New Labour”) permanently. It was made clear that I was considered a parasite for having clinical depression, and the DWP would act with extreme prejudice to any attempt to change the ruling. Such an attempt would only be possible if I weren’t depressed. I have existed on charity ever since, my thoughts often wandering between suicide and homicide. When my parents can no longer pay for my food and shelter, I’m homeless, dead, or serving the rest of my life in prison.

  5. jerome

    I was sanctioned and treated like scum by the job centre, no empathy. After a brief argument where voices were raised I was reported to the police who came to my house and assaulted me and kidnapped me to their police office where i was accused of breach of the peace with threatening behaviour. The procurator fiscal wrote to me and offered me a chance to pay £100 fine for having allegedly committed an offence. I refused and was sent an invitation to appear at their kangaroo court. At the court I claimed common law jurisdiction to a trial with a jury of 12 people. The sheriff left the court and came back after a recess and issued a warrant for my arrest for non appearance. 10 weeks later after approximately 8 weeks of banging my door the police finally arrested me on my drive as I got out of my car with my children. I was kidnapped by these policy enforcers and held overnight at their police office. The following day I was taken to court where the same Sheriff tried to get jurisdiction over me by asking me to appear as the legal fiction entity they have power over, my berth certificate. A Sheriff as a fictional entity can never have jurisdiction over a man, Sheriff is pretend, just a man acting as something else and a fiction can never be higher in natural law than a man. I told Sheriff I was a man and I did not recognise their presumed authority. I was then put into prison by the Sheriff and dragged off by G4 Security to prison. 40 days I did in there and was eventually release by the same Sheriff because I gave him the legal fiction name on the berth certificate. He admonished me, cost the tax payer all that money to have the police arrest me, the prison to hold me and the court officials to wield their self imposed authority over me, must have cost them thousands. I will never get the 40 days I lost back again and I have been badly traumatised by the entire experience. I no longer claim any “benefits” and have not been paid anything for almost a year, I would rather crawl over broken glass than degrade myself like that ever again. I hate the politics of this country but at least I don’t live in Palestine.

  6. toocomplex4justice

    We all live in fear of this and if you are genuinely very unwell the appeal process is not geared for justice as people are expected to travel miles away from home meaning that if you attend then how can you qualify for the benefit. The tribunal does not make reasonable allowance for disabled people and requests for a home visit or teleconference hearing are ignored.

  7. Dickie T

    Whilst i support the ethos behind this story no one pays extra for water and sewerage in Scotland )all part of Council tax) which suggests this story is made up and undermines the real message

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Have you written to The National about it?
      Would anybody here like to respond to this?

  8. stilloaks

    If he is receiving Universal credit, the hardship payment has to be repaid at the end of the sanction. Over the three years at £36 per week he will have received £5,616.
    The repayments are calculated at 40% of the amount received which would be £14.40 per week repayments, meaning it will take him seven and a half years to repay the hardship payment.

  9. mrmarcpc

    Soon the work and poor houses will be back up and running again, the only other thing that’s missing are nazi uniforms rounding us all up to go into them, or onto trains!

Comments are closed.