Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre (SCALC) has welcomed today's report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee on benefit sanctions as it takes on board the evidence that SCALC had submitted from front-line advice workers.
Today’s report says that benefit sanctions “withhold subsistence level-benefits from people who may have little or no other income” and calls for an independent review by the next Government.
The Law Centre's evidence to the Committee described the case of Barry, who was left in severe financial hardship after being sanctioned when he was caring for his dying brother. The Law Centre was particularly concerned with the lack of hardship payments leaving people destitute for a minimum of two weeks, and the unintended knock-on effect on housing benefit, causing rent arrears. SCALC also recommended there should be a warning before a sanction is imposed.
The Committee has agreed that hardship payments should be available from day one of a sanction, demanded action on housing benefit systems and recommended a system of warnings before sanctions are imposed.
Andy Buck, Chief Executive of Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre, said,
“We are pleased the Committee recognises the concerns we raised and refers to our evidence in their report. It clearly lays down a challenge for the next Government to make sure people are treated fairly.”
“This report is timely as sanctions have not gone away. Only recently, one of our clients told us ‘Since the sanction was applied, I have been hungry and ill and have lost a stone and a half in weight. This has hindered my chances of finding work.’”
For further details on this please Tim Arnold (on 0114 275 4578) or Douglas Johnson (on 0114 253 6759) at Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre.