The number of sanctions given to people on Jobseekers Allowance has more than doubled since 2010
Thousands of sick, disabled and unemployed Scots are being left in poverty as their benefit payments are stopped – according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
Based on real case evidence, CAS shows in its latest report Sanctioned: what benefit? that many people hit by benefit sanctions are forced into poverty and ill health, often having to rely on foodbanks. The report also reveals that many who are hit by a sanction are not told the reason for it or how to appeal against it.
Last year, nearly 900,000 sanctions were applied to jobseekers allowance (JSA) and employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants – JSA sanctions have more than doubled since 2010.
Nearly all Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) advisers (94%) said they have seen an increase in people coming to the CAB in the last two years because of benefit sanctions.
Even more (97%) advisers said claimants skip meals because of being sanctioned, and nine out of 10 said sanctions have led directly to an increase in demand for foodbanks.
Can you imagine what it must be like to have that money taken away? To do without an income?
Worryingly, six out of ten advisers said claimants generally don’t receive notification of their sanction in advance and 90% said that claimants do not generally understand the reasons for the sanction or how to avoid them in future.
CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch has recommended 16 changes to the Department for Work and Pensions to be made urgently inlcuding a complete review of the purpose of sanctions and for a rule to be made meaning no claimant being sanctioned should be left with no income.
She said: “Being sanctioned means your benefit money is stopped. From a minimum of a week to as long as three years. That is the money that you live on. The money that you use to heat your home, feed and clothe yourself and your family, pay your bills, pay for travel, to get to the JobCentre and to look for work.
“Can you imagine what it must be like to have that money taken away? To do without an income? Take it one step further and think about what it would mean to have your income stopped and not know why, not know for how long , and not know what you can do about it.
“That is the reality faced by many of the clients CAB see every day. For some they don’t know why, for others they may know why but it was due to unavoidable circumstances.”
One common complaint found by the report’s researchers was people simply don’t understand the complex sanctions regime.
As a result CAS has launched the Challenge It campaign which will see CABs across Scotland raising the awareness of the right to appeal against sanctions.
Fourteen local survival guides are being produced by CABs across the country. The guides offer detailed help for those who have been sanctioned, as well as listing local sources of assistance and aid.