Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan has highlighted new academic research that confirms that the UK Government’s sanctions regime has “detrimental financial, material, emotional and health impacts” and pushes those on JSA and ESA into debt and reliance on foodbanks, according to new academic research.
The research is the first wave findings of a study on ‘Welfare Conditionality’ conducted by researchers from six universities including the University of Glasgow.
The study – presented in a briefing to MSPs at Holyrood yesterday – showed that benefit sanctions were often out of proportion to the offence, such as being a few minutes late to an appointment, and that poor communication meant that some of those sanctioned did not understand why.
Those sanctioned commonly turn to borrowing, with some ending up “near-destitute, using food banks” and in extreme cases being “pushed towards ‘survival crime’”.
The report also said that there was “limited evidence” that conditionality brought about positive behavioural change, with successful transitions into work instead due to the availability of appropriate individual support.
Commenting, SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said:
“This is an absolutely damning report, laying bare the reality of the dehumanising and ineffective Tory sanctions system.
“The Tory Government approach to benefit claimants is to presume guilt and to punish disproportionately. Not only does this fail to help jobseekers find work, but it puts many people in the position where they’re simply penniless – which is why foodbank providers identify sanctions as one of the key drivers for their growth.
“This punitive benefit sanctions regime should be a stain on the conscience of the Tory Government.. An immediate and urgent review is needed of the claimant conditionality and sanction regime and sanctions should be paused until this is done.”
Mr McMillan also expressed concerns with the UK Government’s determination to administer Universal Credit, which is due to be introduced to Inverclyde in November this year.
A recent Citizens Advice study found that Universal Credit was frequently difficult and time consuming for advisers to help clients who had suffered from serious DWP administrative errors.
“The main cause of difficulty is a built-in delay to universal credit which requires claimants to wait at least 42 days before receiving a benefit payment. This has left some claimants penniless, stressed, forced to borrow cash to pay rent or utility bills and struggling to buy food.
“I am greatly concerned that there are so many flaws in the UK Government’s troubled universal credit system that will leave vulnerable claimants in Inverclyde hundreds of pounds in debt and dependent on foodbanks.
“Theresa May’s Tories need to listen to those who have continually called for changes to this unfair and disproportionate system”