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?
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.