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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Thanet's Benefit Sanctions Tsunami


Press release. 01/12/16
Former  Thanet Councillor Ian Driver has accused Ramsgate and Margate JobCentre  bosses  of  “unleashing  a sanctions tsunami” against Job Seekers Allowance claimants in Thanet.  
According to the latest Government figures, during the three years and seven months period, October 2012 –  June  2016  7,558   JSA claimants from Thanet were sanctioned;  an average of 41 sanctions per week. This is the highest sanctioning rate in the Kent County Council (KCC)  area and is almost twice as large  as the next highest area, Shepway, where 4,144 sanctions were imposed  during the same year period.

Benefit sanctions in Thanet account for 20% of the 36,989  sanction decisions made across the  KCC area in the three year and seven months period  covered by the Government’s  latest statistical release (1).
Said Driver “even allowing for Thanet’s higher than average unemployment, the number of sanctions are massively disproportionate when compared to other KCC areas . I can only assume that this 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 are likely to be exerting  pressure on frontline staff  to sanction first and ask questions later. Either way the statistics for Thanet suggest that something very unusual and massively  unfair is happening. Many of the  victims of this ruthless approach are likely to be vulnerable and disabled people especially those with mental health or substance abuse problems and people with learning disabilities.”

Driver’s allegations are backed up by a report published yesterday  by the Government spending watchdog the  National Audit Office (2). The report concludes that there is no evidence that benefits sanctions work. It also notes that:

·       the use of sanctions varies substantially between jobcentres and between providers”

·       “We found that some Work Programme providers make more than twice as many sanction referrals as other providers supporting similar people in the same area”

·       The Department has not used sanctions consistently. Referral rates vary substantially across jobcentres and providers”

Such is the level of concern about benefits sanctioning that there were three separate investigations into the system in 2015 –

  • A joint investigation by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the United Reform Church, and the campaign group Church Action on Poverty.
  • A Department of Work and Pensions Select Committee investigation
  • An investigation by the Government’s Social Security Advisory Committee

All three investigations heard evidence of extensive unofficial sanctioning  targets being set at  JobCentres across the country and of staff being bullied to meet these targets. All three investigations were advised by witnesses that  sanctions were unfairly focused on vulnerable JobCentre clients who were seen as easy prey  to meet the unofficial targets. All three investigations heard harrowing   accounts of the despair and hardship  that claimants had  to face when their payments were stopped.
All three investigations were so disturbed by the evidence they reviewed that each of them  recommended that  the Government launch an independent enquiry into the operation of the benefit sanctions system with a view to eliminating  the widespread  unfair, discriminatory  and inconsistent applications of the system across the country However the Government has refused to launch an investigation
Said Driver “its clear that the benefits sanctioning regime does not work and that it is being administered in a chaotic and inconsistent manner at the whim of individual managers and privatised jobcentre service providers. This unfair, out-of-control system is causing misery and serious hardship for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are extremely vulnerable. There should  be an immediate enquiry into the operation of benefits sanctioning in the Ramsgate and Margate JobCentres to find out why the sanctioning rate is so massively high when compared with the rest of the KCC area and benefits sanctioning should be ended immediately”.  

Notes

  1. see table 1.2


Figures for KCC area below were extracted from  the spreadsheet above.

JSA Sanctions 22Oct 12 - 30June 16
Ashford - International House
2,356
Canterbury - Northgate House
1,868
Canterbury - Herne Bay - Bank Street
1,545
Canterbury - Whitstable - High Street
35
Dartford - Lowfield Street
3,613
Dover - Maison Dieu Road
3,150
Gravesend - The Grove
3,015
Maidstone - County Gate
3,176
Shepway - Folkestone - Trinity Road
4,144
Swale - Sheerness - Millennium Way
1,746
Swale - Sittingbourne - Roman Square
2,195
Thanet - Margate - Mill House
5,221
Thanet - Ramsgate - Queens Street
2,337
Tonbridge - Bradford Street
1,219
Tunbridge Wells - Northgate
1,369
36,989

 
  1. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/benefit-sanctions/

 

2 comments:

  1. This is outrageous - have the DSS clarified what sanctions targets they are working to? Unless it's fraud or a major breach of the DSS guidelines there's no reason for sanctions and certainly not targets with public funds.

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  2. We have had an early tiny glimpse of where UK is headed. The two coppers mobbed by 30 school kids for trying to search one for a knife. We are headed towards sanctioned individuals gathering as gangs and dishing out summary justice to low risk parochial vindictive benefits clerks.

    In Victorian Kent prisoners, sentenced to hard labour, killed their guards to get a death sentence instead. There was only so much eating candles for desperate extra sustenance the prisoners would take. What's the worst society has to threaten folks with now ? A prison sentence with TV and three meals a day with no need to queue at foodbank. Once oppressed people do not fear the consequence of fighting back then trouble is inevitable.

    In the early 80s on the club door we invented rumours to see how quickly they circulated in Thanet. We invented Triad protection reckets etc etc. But when we invented planning to burn out the county court and smash the bailiffs and the plod we got more reaction than we expected. The next weekend people were at the club door with addresses of bailiffs homes and of police homes and we could have formed an army in Thanet to take out the oppression of debt law and police and county court. Our rumour plan to form our own bailiffs, to visit police and bailiff homes, and seize all their property was particularly popular. We stopped rumour mongering after that. But it signalled just how much simmering anger there was in Thanet only requiring organisation and bang. I think there will be a lot more simmer yet. Resentment will continue to attach to ethnicity as part of divide and rule. But eventually there will be a fight.

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