Esther McVey, the minister for employment reckons that sanctions were only used against those who were “wilfully rejecting support for no good reason”, but we know that this isn’t true and have compiled a list of truly ridiculous sanctions which has also been turned into a tumblr page, to keep track and raise awareness of the sometimes bizarre circumstances under which sanctions are applied.
JCP advisors have targets to meet and face performance reviews if they aren’t sanctioning enough people. A local job centre even offered an easter egg as a prize to the advisor who referred the most people for sanctions, and management are doing as much as they can do get claimants sanctioned, even breaking regulations to do this.
Somehow it is thought that sanctions help people to find work. Quite how someone left with no money is meant to clean, maintain or buy clothes for interviews, or pay for travel for interviews or pay for internet access to look for jobs (Wolverhampton libraries are set to introduce a charge for internet usage) or any of the other multitude of things that cost money and are needed to be done to have any chance of finding a job seems to be an unanswered question.
Once again we face the problem that the idiots in charge of employment policy seem to think that the problem is that people aren’t doing enough to look for work, when really the problem is that there isn’t enough work around to look for. Without enough jobs for everyone all you are doing with sanctions is making people destitute or pushing them into crime, stealing food because they’ve no money to buy it. Gas or Electric for heating can’t really be stolen and if you’re on a card meter you can’t even go into debt to keep warm in the coming cold months. Some will find themselves homeless as housing benefit is wrongly stopped (if you get sanctioned and your HB is stopped, you need to file a Nil Income claim). In a report to Birmignham City Council last year, Sifa Fireside said that they are increasingly seeing HB stopped when sanctions are applied.
This is a truly horrendous situation unfolding in front of us with hundreds of thousands of families affected. We must fight back against sanctions and the neo-liberal view of unemployment, and work towards getting back a comprehensive social security system that ensures support for everyone and an attitude that jobs must be created to reduce unemployment. If you want to help with this, get in touch with the Birmingham Claimants’ Union, or join Unite Community Union or SolFed.