Stuart McMillan MSP has blasted the UK Government’s dehumanising and ineffective sanctions system ahead of a Holyrood debate on Social Security today.
The parliament will be debating academic research by Glasgow University which shows 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 food banks.
The study 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’”.
Additional research published last week from the University of Oxford found a “robust link” between the numbers of benefit sanctions and demand for food banks.
Commenting, Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan said:
“The evidence is absolutely overwhelming – the UK Government’s sanctions regime is dehumanising, ineffective and pushes people into destitution and reliance on food banks, often at no fault of their own.
“Not only does the Tory Government approach to benefit claimants fail to help jobseekers find work, but it puts many people in the position where they’re simply penniless – which is why food bank 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. Theresa May’s Tories need to listen to those who have continually called for changes to this unfair and disproportionate system. 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 further highlighted the contrasts between the Scottish and UK Governments over their approach to social security:
“The Scottish Government will reform the benefits that will be devolved to us. We will improve the processes and we will make them fairer and ensure dignity and respect runs throughout. We will use the powers to tackle poverty at its very core, we will use them to support and help those on low incomes and we will use them to protect our most vulnerable.
“Our overarching aim is to create a social security system that is there to help and support those who need it, when they need it and of which all Scots can be proud.”