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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

New sanctions figures out on in February

The number of unemployed people in Brighton being punished for not finding a job is going up, despite the number of people out of work going down, figures uncovered by Hit the Donkey, can reveal.

Job Centre staff across Sussex ordered the removal of people’s benefits on more than 7,000 occasions between October 2012 and June 2013, the latest period for which figures are available from the Department for Work and Pensions.

(Ed - Up-to-date figures are due to be released by the DWP in February. Watch this space for an update).

The department’s increased focus on attaching ‘conditions’ to people’s unemployment benefit resulted in the number of sanctions dished out, by Brighton Job Centre, leap by more than 400% in a single month between October and November 2012. Similar increases occurred at job centres elsewhere in the area and the level of sanctions has stayed roughly stable ever since, the figures show.

Brighton Pavillion MP, Caroline Lucas, has previously called on the coalition and
Labour opposition, who are both committed to sanctions, to agree to a proper review after listening to residents detail a catalogue of bizarre and often callous justifications for issuing sanctions in the first place.

Speaking in Parliament in March last year she told the story of a 58-year-old female constituent, who had been unemployed for seven months and told me she would be sanctioned because she could not afford the cost of a 21-mile round trip to work for a charity shop in Worthing. The woman offered to work in the same shop in Brighton, but the Job Centre would not allow it.

Lesley Ashley (Donkey passim), 27, a Chef who lives between Brighton and London, was sanctioned at Christmas last year (2012). As a consequence of his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) being cut, his housing benefit was cut as well. The job centre did not inform him that the sanction could affect his housing benefit too.

In and out of zero-hours contract work Leslie was sanctioned after he didn’t receive a letter from his Work Programme provider A4E and, as a result, missed an appointment.
After six weeks the job centre agreed to overturn the sanction, he got his housing benefit restored and had his arrears cleared.

He said: “The sanction had been applied wrongly, which I told them, but although it was not my fault I was warned ‘don’t to do it again’.”

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