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How to unite against sanctions

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UNITE the union, Unite Community, jobcentre protests, end sanctionsIt needs to be done: these are seriously hard times for ordinary people.

Activists from Britain’s biggest trade union Unite have been protesting outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London and jobcentres throughout the UK, and calling on the UK government to stop its “cruel and ineffective” benefit sanctions regime as part of a ‘national day of action’ to stop benefit sanctions.

Since May 2010, over 3 million people have been referred for a sanction 8 million times.

Over 318,000 people have had their benefits – that is the money they need for their food and bills – cut or stopped completely in the last year alone, often for unfair reasons such as being late for appointments with the jobcentre, or when too sick to ‘actively seek work’.

According to the food bank charity Trussell Trust, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17, including over 188,500 to children, with the most common reason for referral being problems and delays with benefit payments.

Unite has also expressed concerns that if people do not appeal against negative sanction decisions and they are sanctioned again, their benefits could be affected for even longer – leaving people without money for three months or up to three years depending on the level of the ‘offence’.

These are adult human beings, don’t forget.

Figures released by DWP in December 2016 showed that of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for between 1 and 2 years during the 2010 to 2015 period, 37 per cent were sanctioned after challenges; of those claiming between 2 and 3 years, half (49 per cent) were sanctioned; and of those claiming between 3 and 4 years, 85 per cent were sanctioned.

And a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) last year found there is very little evidence to suggest sanctions ‘encourage’ people back to work.

Unite Community members protested in different parts of London before moving to DWP headquarters for a demonstration from 15:00 to 16:30. Regional protests were also held across the country.

Unite’s community membership scheme makes it the leading community trade union in the UK and Ireland.

In the 21st century, too many people in the UK are being pushed to the margins of society. They deserve to be heard; they too deserve the support to organise collectively.

Those not in employment are welcomed into the union family, adding another dimension to our strength in thousands of workplaces all over the UK and Ireland.

Organising and activism are at the centre of strong communities, which is why Unite’s community membership provides a way people can find and use their political voice, whether it is taking a stand against a service closure or coming together to improve their own environment.

These are seriously hard times for ordinary people. Incomes, housing, health, education and legal services – the very pillars of our society for more than 60 years – are now under assault.

For information on the Unite Community scheme send UNITE an email.

For more information and to see what benefits Community Membership brings you – providing support, helping you save money and claim your entitlements – click here.

Or call the Community membership information line – 0333 240 9798. Calls are chargeable at normal landline rates.

Liane Groves, head of Unite Community, said: “The government really needs to stop the cruel use of benefit sanctions which are destroying lives.

“The stress they are putting on people, and the effect on their children and wider families, is unacceptable. We should all be shocked.

“The government has shown no evidence that benefit sanctions are working. The opposite is true, when people are in survival mode, fighting to put food on their family’s table or stressing how they will pay their bills means their mental and physical heath suffers and finding work is so much harder.

“Rather than punishing the unemployed for not having a job the government should be helping people get jobs. People need a hand up – not a slap down.”

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