I am supporting the CAB campaign to raise the issues of benefit sanctions through the ‘Challenge It’ campaign. The Tory approach to welfare reform is in my view fundamentally flawed in that it does not recognise the need for support, training, skills and decent paid jobs for those who are physically able to work but do not have a job and it also fails to recognise that there are people who are unable to work and for whom the welfare state is meant to support and help.
The plan seems to be to starve people and believe that somehow they will find an alternative and nowhere is this more evident than the sanction regime which has been introduced and is one of the main factors in the massive rise in take up at food banks.
In our society it cannot be right and it is not right that individuals and families are being penalised and deliberately targeted to remove the very basic safety net that gives every human being in the UK the ability to access basic needs such as food. For the first time in almost a century absolute poverty is visible in our communities and people are having to rely on the charity of others to survive.
We need a different approach and a change of government but in the meantime we must support those who are in the greatest need and challenge the sanctions.
This summer, CABs across Scotland are raising the issue of benefit sanctions. The ‘Challenge It’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the right to appeal against sanctions.
National messages are being spread and local work undertaken.
All CABs in Scotland have been issued with ‘Challenge It’ postcards and mini-cards, offering tips both on how to avoid being sanctioned and what to do if you are.
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.
The campaign will raise awareness of sanctions: ensuring people understand how to prevent their benefit being sanctioned, and also providing information on what to do if they feel the sanction has been unfairly applied. Evidence from bureaux in Scotland shows that people often feel powerless when sanctioned. This campaign aims to empower people by supporting them to avoid being sanctioned in the first place, and also lists actions they can take if they feel the sanction is unfair.
Prevent sanctions – self help
•If you are set job search targets you can’t manage, say so, or tell a CAB advisor.
•Keep a careful record of everything you do to try and find work. If you are unable to look of work at any point, keep a note of why not.
•Have you missed an appointment? Tell the Job Centre why within 5 days and keep your own record.
If sanctioned – take action
•Ask for a mandatory reconsideration within a month. If you don’t get your first sanctions reversed, later ones could be for longer.
•If that fails, your local CAB can help you appeal through a free, independent tribunal.
•When you money is stopped, you can apply for hardship payments from the Job Centre.
More information can be found at: http://www.cas.org.uk/ChallengeitBenefitSanctions