Jun 102016

By Kate Belgrave

Yesterday, I spent god knows how long on the phone to the Department for Work and Pensions (a charged-for call, if you don’t mind), having the most ridiculous conversation that I (and probably anyone) has ever had with them.

I was calling on behalf of Sam, a 22-year-old who signs on at East Ham jobcentre in London. A week or so ago, Sam saw a different jobcentre adviser from her usual one. The adviser at that meeting decided that Sam’s jobsearch record for the fortnight wasn’t up to a standard that the adviser had in mind and that the jobcentre would think about imposing a sanction. Advisers told Sam that she’d have to wait a week or two for a decision-maker to decide whether or not the sanction would go ahead.

But in the meantime, to all intents and purposes, Sam has been sanctioned. I say this because she didn’t receive her benefit payment this week. As of Monday, she had 80p left in her bank account. Last week the jobcentre gave her a hardship payment application form, when advisers first started talking about imposing a sanction. She filled in the form and took it to the jobcentre this week with her bank statement showing the 80p.

But the jobcentre now told Sam that she couldn’t submit the hardship form until the jobcentre had made a formal decision about sanctioning her. Sam said she’d already been sanctioned, because her benefit had been stopped. That was a sanction as far as she was concerned. It certainly felt like a sanction. She had no money. Her benefit had been stopped. Still the jobcentre wouldn’t take the hardship form.

So we rang the DWP. The DWP confirmed that Sam’s benefit had been suspended. The DWP also confirmed that Sam couldn’t submit her application for a hardship payment until the jobcentre made a formal decision about the sanction. I said that Sam had surely already been sanctioned, because her benefit hadn’t been paid.

Certainly, as far as Sam was concerned, she had been sanctioned. Her benefit had been suspended and she had no money in her account. How else would anybody view that experience, except as a sanction? Was it a pre-sanction sanction? What was the DWP even talking about? The DWP said that it had to suspend Sam’s benefit payments while the jobcentre decided whether or not to sanction her. True story. That’s what they said.

I said again that Sam had no money in her account. The DWP said again that Sam couldn’t submit the hardship form until the jobcentre made the formal decision about the sanction. The DWP said it hoped the formal decision about the sanction would be made sometime this week. Sam very much hopes the same, as well she might. Her benefit has been stopped, she has no income and she can’t apply for hardship assistance until her benefit is “officially” stopped, even though her benefit has already been stopped anyway.

The DWP suggested that in the meantime, Sam goes to her local council and asks for crisis help there. I wonder how many other people will be in that queue. These people are not only being left completely without income – they’re not even being told how long they’ll have to go without income for.

with thanks to Kate, Chaminda and the excellent Sentinel News







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 Posted by at 11:47

  9 Responses to “Sanctioned whilst waiting to be Sanctioned”

  1. They are sll evil to treat these poir people like this n make em suffer so much.x

  2. Did you record the phone call? The DWP is utterly non-accountable, I think the time has come when the best thing to do with the bullshit they tell you, is to ensure it’s recorded then put it up on social media so lots of the public can listen to how stupid the DWP procedures are, and, raise awareness of how the DWPs stupid procedures push vulnerable and disabled people towards starvation and/or suicide.

    Plus, recorded evidence can also be of use in appeals via external organisations and/or court cases.

  3. my daughter been sanctioned for 3 months with not a penny good job she lives at home. the goverment dont give a shit what there doing to the disabled its disguisting

  4. We now live under a tyranny !
    Those managers in DWP need to be prosecuted for what they are doing to the poorest in this country
    Because they will not be held accountable they will continue the abuse of the most needy and vulnerable in society.

  5. and they wonder why people commit suicide the whole system is fucked up

  6. no wonder people turn to crime 🙁 and also do slave labour for a little bit to eat wich slavery against the law this system drives you towards it very disappointed in the system .where the human rights when you need them

  7. Kafka or Heller ?

    A hardship payment is for hardship no matter what they call its cause ,a sanction or a suspension. Its still caused by them – the DWP. And she had evidence to prove it – the bank statement.

    They used to suspend full benefit & reduce it by a third until a decision was made. So you wouldn’t be eligible for hardship payment.

    Highly unlikely the council will help. They claim they’re already struggling to deal with government cuts.

  8. When dealing with the DWP I swing between feeling I’m in a Kafka nightmare or Monty Python sketch. Cruel and farcical in equal measure.

  9. This has got to be another step by the dwp towards total fachism. Surely Parliament has to know about this obseen, despicable and totally inhumane treatment of job seekers. Sam’s benefit has been stopped because no one can make a decision in a suitable period of time. As in immediatly. There is absolutly no reason whatsoever for any delay in making a decision regarding Sam’s benefit. The hardship payment is exactly for the purpose of helping a claiment to get by till a decision is reached by the dwp. It is there to prevent people from starving. This action by the dwp has to be illegal. There has to be a specified time in which a decision has to be made regarding Sam[‘s sanctioning, or decision whether or not to sanction Sam. Two weeks is in no way a reasonable time to make a simple decdision. Two days or 2 minutes but not two weeks. Good luck Sam. Please don’t leave this situation there. Take it as far as you can. Seek legal advice. This has to be against human rights and all forms of decency and fairness.

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