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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Green Party Driver Supports Protest Against Thanet “Benefit Sanctions Tsunami”

Green Party Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South Ian Driver  has called for an immediate end to benefits sanctions and says he  will be joining a national day of action against sanctions called by UNITE the Union on 19 March. The day of action will include a protests outside the Margate Job Centre Mill Lane at 10am. Said  Driver “Thanet’s Jobcentre bosses have unleashed a sanctions tsunami” against  the district’s benefits claimants. During the
2 year  period from October 2012 –  September  2014, Thanet’s Jobcentre managers have sanctioned  5,718 Jobs Seekers Allowance claims; that’s an average of 240  sanctions per month which is a sanction rate 52%  greater than  any other district in the Kent County Council area  and accounts for over  21% of all sanctions decisions  in Kent (1).
Said Driver “even allowing for Thanet’s high unemployment, the number of sanctions are massively  disproportionate when compared to other areas of Kent. I can only assume that the is because Jobcentre bosses in Thanet are more inclined to apply sanctions  than their colleagues  elsewhere in Kent. I suspect they are operating unofficial sanctions targets and  putting pressure on frontline staff  to sanction first and ask questions later. Either way the statistics for Thanet suggest that something very unusual and unfair is happening. The victims of this approach are most likely to be vulnerable and disabled people especially those with mental health problems and learning disabilities. I will be seeking an explanation from the Job Centre Regional Manager about this ”.
Such is the level of concern about benefits sanctions that a Department of Work and Pensions Select Committee was set up in January 2015 to investigate the  issue. Detailed evidence has been presented to the Select Committee by the  leaders of several influential campaign  groups and charities; the Public and Commercial Services Union and former Job Centre workers which identifies a widespread regime of unofficial, unfair and discriminatory  sanctions targeting; front line staff be bullied by their managers to refer claimants for sanctioning for the minor of issues. 
Just last week the influential campaigning organisation,  Church Action on Poverty, which   represents 6 different churches produced a major report “Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions” which has called the a major review of the sanctions regime and the  immediate suspension of benefits sanctioning for claimants with children. 

Said Driver “there is no doubt in my mind that some of the most vulnerable people in Thanet are being abused and forced into the most severe hardship and poverty  by the insensitive and hard-line approach  of senior Job Centre bosses. I sincerely hope that the Select Committee will recommend   a root and branch overhaul of a system which is clearly unfit for purpose and dangerous to boot”

2 comments:

  1. Looks like Job Centre targets to meet and with no jobs in the area applying sanctions is easier than finding or creating jobs. What is the staffing and cost of the Job Centre that we fund?

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  2. It's not just the job centre, the council are un on the act. I owe hundreds of pounds in council tax for periods where I've been sanctioned. As soon as the job centre sanctions someone they inform the council that their claim has been stopped even though it hasn't.

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