On Monday 22nd October the government’s new sanctions regime for the unemployed will come into force. It is a brutal punishment for being
unemployed that will leave many people destitute.
The existing sanctions regime was already savage. Anybody who failed to attend an appointment or was accused of not actively seeking work could be fined with a 2 week suspension of their JSA benefit for a first ‘offence’. Those accused of refusing employment could also be sanctioned. The maximum sanction period was 26 weeks – half a year.
The new regime will mean that a first ‘offence’ will be punished with a 4 week sanction of benefits, rising to 13 weeks for a second ‘offence’ within 12 months. For refusing employment, which can simply mean not applying for a job you have been instructed to apply for, the maximum sanction will be 3 years! This will effectively force some people off benefit.
Over half a million sanctions were handed out in 2011 and Jobcentre managers are being directed to continue to increase the pressure on benefit claimants.
With 2.5 million people currently unemployed due to the recession and government austerity measures many people are already in desperate circumstances. The number of food banks is growing weekly and many people referred to them report having no gas or electric as they cannot pay for them.
At the same time as attacking the unemployed the government is launching an attack on civil servants, including jobcentre workers. They are ‘reviewing’ working hours, leave, childcare, job sharing and much more.
Neither unemployed workers nor the hundreds of thousands of low paid civil servants are responsible for the crisis – the blame lies at the feet of the ConDems and their friends running the banks and big business.
As the new sanctions regime bites there will be thousands more people driven to desperation by a government which cares only about the rich and powerful.