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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Compassion deficit in the welfare system

This opinion piece is almost 8 years old

June Maxwell, volunteer adviser at Clydebank CAB says working without pay is meant to be rewarding – but how rewarding can it be to watch a pensioner in tears or to hear your client say that he’s off home to think of ways to kill himself?

June Maxwell
June Maxwell

Those bearing the brunt of sanctions include the young, the old and the sick – often those very same people who are, through lack of skills or means, unable to challenge decisions that affect their wellbeing. That’s why agencies like ours must act as their voice.

For those who are most likely to find themselves out of work, the instructions in the sanction process are too often unclear or contradictory, and no account is taken of people without access to computers or the internet, or those who have only a limited ability to cope with the extensive form-filling that applications for benefits require. No matter who makes the mistakes – whether it’s JCP or the Work Programme, it’s always the claimants who are left to go hungry.

That’s why we talk in the report about a compassion deficit because it seems to us that no one cares. In fact, in some cases it’s almost as if meting out sanctions is enjoyed, as if being cruel to people is somehow a virtue.



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Malcolm Ferey
almost 8 years ago
Well done for taking on this mammouth piece of work, June. I have seen the full report and it's obvious that you have undertaken this research in your usual methodical yet compassionate style! I know that these things are a team effort, but you are an asset to your Bureau, just as you were an asset to ours!
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Isabel McCue
almost 8 years ago
Yes June you are so right it seems people in these positions take great pleasure in finding a way of stopping benefits or just making life difficult for people. Thank you for the report the report.