New data released by the DWP indicates that over 250 benefits sanctions are applied every week in Sheffield, with 265 sanctions applied on average to people in receipt of unemployment or disability benefits ever week. The sanctions can leave people without any means of support, with some or all of their social support payments taken away*.
Campaigners state that the sanctions are often applied for reasons that are not justified. Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau recently cited cases in Sheffield where people had lost their benefits for reasons including:
- A homeless man who forgot to notify the office of a change of address;
- A lone parent fleeing domestic violence who “went to the wrong venue”;
- People applying for 14 jobs instead of 15 jobs within the specified time;
- A person who was on a placement organised by the DWP, then having their benefits removed by the DWP whilst they were on placement;
- Sanctions applied when the work programme provider arranging the placement refused to pass on the correct information.
This news follows a report that found people who had their benefits taken away would end up relying on food banks, with some suffering from malnutrition. Jason Leman of Sheffield Equality Group, which campaigns to reduce the difference between those on high and low incomes, said:
“Every week hundreds of people are made penniless by a bureaucracy obsessed with targets and red tape. Removing this support means starving people as punishment for making mistakes. Often those mistakes are trivial, or actually on the part of the DWP and work providers. We’ve gone from a couple of food banks in Sheffield to having them across the city, and that is directly as a result of benefit sanctions and delays. We need to change the system to support people instead of treating them like outcasts for not having a job at the moment”
*13,165 people have been sanctioned in Sheffield on Job Seekers Allowance from Jan 13 to Dec 13, equivalent to 253 people per week, 2,539 people have been sanctioned across South Yorkshire on Employment Support Allowance (Disability benefit), Dec 12 to Dec 13, weighting for 35% of these being in Sheffield this is equivalent to 15 people per week.