Campaigners were set to target major job centres and government buildings in a day of action against benefit sanctions on Thursday of this week.
The protests have been called by the Benefit Justice Federation and the PCS union representing job centre and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) workers. It has been backed by Disabled People Against Cuts.
Sanctions cut off the Job Seekers’ Allowance of unemployed people or the Employment Support Allowance of sick and disabled people. This leaves them with nothing to live on for weeks or months at a time.
A new scheme to force unemployed people to spend 35 hours a week at the job centre writing CVs and cover letters is to be backed up by sanctions.
Employment minister Esther McVey also plans to grill claimants with “attitude tests” to see what level of humiliation to put them through on pain of losing their benefits.
But already the vast majority of people who use food banks are referred there after being sanctioned. More than a million people were sanctioned last year—up from 100,000 in 2010.
The government argues that sanctions target people who refuse to look to work.
But many people are sanctioned over trivial mistakes or things entirely beyond their control.
Some 82 percent of DWP workers who are in PCS say they have felt “pressured” into sanctioning claimants, and
62 percent say they have made “inappropriate” sanctions.
Sanctions are a central part of the Tories’ attacks on benefits—but they are still supported by a Labour Party desperate to look “tough”.
Protesters in London will target the DWP headquarters in Westminster. Others will rally outside major job centres and DWP offices including in Birmingham, Brighton, Huddersfield, Leeds and Milton Keynes.
They are also demanding an end to the bedroom tax and other benefit cuts