Socialist Worker

Report from MPs slams ‘pointlessly cruel’ benefit sanctions

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2629

Tory attacks on benefits are driving up food bank use

Tory attacks on benefits are driving up food bank use (Pic: Staffs Live/ Flickr)


A damning report released on Tuesday slammed the government’s brutal benefit sanctions regime. The MPs’ Work and Pensions Committee said the human cost of sanctions, where benefits are withheld, is “simply too high” and “pointlessly cruel”.

And it found that single parents, care leavers and people with disabilities and health conditions are more likely to be sanctioned. On top of that children are at risk of becoming “collateral damage” when their parents’ benefits are withheld.

The report is based on over 500 responses from claimants. One disabled woman was forced to “sofa surf” or sleep in a library for a year when her entire benefits were taken away.

The report comes as new figures show that the Universal Credit (UC) benefit has led to more emergency supplies being handed out at food banks. The Trussell Trust charity said it provided 658,048 supplies between April and September – a 13 percent rise compared to the same period a year ago.

Emma Revie from the trust said planned Tory changes to UC wouldn’t solve the problem. “They won’t help people making new claims this winter,” she said.

She said the only way to stop people being driven to food banks was to “pause all new claims to Universal Credit”.

Opposition

A petition calling on the government to deal with problems with UC was set to be delivered to Downing Street on Wednesday. There is widespread opposition to UC, even among Tories, but the government is fighting to plough ahead with it.

Hated work and pensions secretary Esther McVey announced more money for UC this week. And she said that advance loans, which help people survive before they start receiving UC, will be repaid at a slower rate.

Currently UC claimants can have 40 percent of their benefit deducted to repay the loans. Now it will be 30 percent. The fact that McVey claims this is positive news for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society shows how out of touch the Tories are.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood called for the government to “stop the botched rollout of Universal Credit now”.

UC is a mechanism to punish the poor and low paid workers. The rollout should be stopped – and the entire benefit scrapped now.


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