Kirkcaldy demonstration calls for an end to benefit sanctions

  • People’s Assembly Fife holds protest against benefit sanctions
  • Group claims sanctions are a direct link to the rise in use of foodbanks
  • Claims up to two million people have had benefits stopped in the past two years
  • Families left with no money for up to a month

A group of protesters held a demonstration at Kirkcaldy’s Job Centre Plus calling for an end to benefit sanctions.

The protest at the Hunter Street office was organised by the The People’s Assembly Fife and was part of a nationwide effort calling on the UK Government to put an end to the current policy.

Protesters against benefit sanctions at Kirkcaldy's Job Centre Plus. Pic: Steven Brown

Protesters against benefit sanctions at Kirkcaldy's Job Centre Plus. Pic: Steven Brown

Spokesman Tam Kirby said that the Government didn’t understand the reality of sanctions and the impact having no money has on people.

“When someone is sanctioned and loses their benefits it can be for up to four or five weeks.

“How is someone supposed to live without money for that amount of time?”

Mr Kirkby said a sanction also leads to an immediate loss of housing benefits and says the practice is forcing people to use foodbanks.

Of the 240 people that we’ve spoken to who are receiving benefits, 30 per cent have been sanctioned

Tam Kirby

He said: “Of the 240 people that we’ve spoken to who are receiving benefits, 30 per cent have been sanctioned.

“The use of foodbanks is going through the roof and we are gathering evidence to prove that’s because of benefit sanctions. The Government flatly denies they are the cause.”

The Assembly also claim that Job Seekers are losing their benefits for “spurious” reasons.

“A guy in Cowdenbeath, who has some learning difficulties, was sanctioned and left with no money over the Christmas period,” Mr Kirkby said.

“Another, who also had learning difficulties, was sanctioned because he didn’t do a job search on Christmas Day.”

Appealing against sanctions is made more difficult because appeal forms are only available on the Department of Work and Pensions website, Mr Kirkby added.

“Not everyone has access to a computer, how are they then supposed to appeal?”

Kirkcaldy SNP Councillor Marie Penman joined the demonstration, branding benefit sanctions “a disgrace”.

“The Government are targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in society,” she said.

“900,000 people were affected by benefit sanctions last year. Benefits are stopped for the most trivial of reasons, such as filling in a form wrong.

“The policy seems to be, if in doubt stop the benefits. It makes me sick.”

Depute Provost Kay Morrison, also at the demonstration, said sanctions are simply a “cruel and inhumane” tactic by the Government to save money.

“If you don’t give people a little bit of support when they need it the most, how are they supposed to get on with their lives?

“It’s a really nasty business.”