I mean, what have you got to lose
You know, you come from nothing, you’re going back to nothing
What have you lost? Nothing!
Part of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python)
Citizens Advice is concerned that an increasing number of people who have very little are being left with nothing through no fault of their own. Or to put it another way, they are being busted by sanctions
If you are unemployed and receiving Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) you could lose your payment if you don’t agree and comply with a Jobseeker’s Agreement. This sets out what you have agreed to do to find work. A Claimant Commitment is a newer kind of Jobseeker’s Agreement that aims to set out more clearly what you have to do to find work. You will have to sign on at the Jobcentre Plus office at least every two weeks so that they can check whether you meet these conditions and see if you need any extra help to find work. You can be called into the Jobcentre Plus office at any time and if they think that you are not keeping to your Jobseeker’s Agreement or Claimant Commitment, your benefit may be cut or stopped, which is known as sanctioning.
On 14 April Citizens Advice published statistics which showed that since the sanction period was extended from one week to four in October 2012, bureaux have seen an unprecedented number of JSA claimants being hit with sanctions across the country. The findings also show that.
- 1 in 4 Citizens Advice clients with a JSA sanction problem had dependent children
- 1 in 4 identified as being disabled of suffering from a long term health condition
- 1 in 6 also had a debt problem
- 1 in 10 had issues with rent arrears or threat or reality of homelessness
Analysis of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics has also shown that in the three months to September 2013 (most recent data available) nine out of ten sanctioned JSA claimants who take their case to tribunal are winning their appeals. These figures suggest that the sanctions regime as it currently stands is not working and that clients are being adversely affected.
In Waverley, the number of clients seeking help as a result of being sanctioned is rising steadily. Typically, claimants find they are being sanctioned without notice even though they had agreed to re-arrange a JSA signing on appointment (because they had a hospital appointment for example). Significantly, the number of CAB clients in Waverley who received support provided under the Local Assistance Scheme in a three month period rose by 500% from April 2013 to April 2014.
The Surrey Local Assistance Scheme (LAS) is run by Surrey County Council using funds provided by central government which has been running since 1 April 2013. It provides financial help to Surrey residents who have nowhere else to turn in an emergency or after a disaster. It also can provide assistance to set up or maintain a home in the community where no other funds or resources are available. Surrey LAS has recognised that people suddenly left with literally nothing as a result of JSA sanctions often qualify for support
So, if you have been sanctioned and need help call your local CAB