Unanimous backing over welfare sanctions

A recent protest against sanctions at Kirkcaldy Jobcentre
A recent protest against sanctions at Kirkcaldy Jobcentre

A call for the suspension of welfare sanctions described as “draconian” and “immoral” has received the unanimous backing of Councillors.

The motion recommending the immediate suspension of sanctions affecting households with children and against anyone with a mental illness was tabled by SNP leader Peter Grant.

In a moving speech to the chamber he told fellow Councillors of constituents who had had their welfare benefits stopped for up to four weeks for attending a funeral or giving birth, and told of some admitting they had been driven to consider suicide.

Under Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) legislation, claimants failing to attend meetings have found their payments frozen regardless of a viable explanation. Furthermore, many that have successfully appealed the sanctions had in fact been refused a back payment for the time they had been left with out benefits.

“It was not a question of economics but a question of basic humanity,” said Mr Grant.

“The state is deliberately taking punitive action against people who are ill, knowing their illness will get worse as a result.”

Mr Grant based his motion on a report published last month by six leading churches and religious organisations highlighting the escalation of sanctions now being issued.

Two motions, one from Labour highlighting that an estimated 13,000 people already sanctioned in Fife and calling for the impact on the region to be recognised, as well as a second from Cllr Bryan Poole noting the work of The People’s Assembly and unions in helping those on the receiving end of DWP legislation, were added to the motion which received unequivocal support from across the chamber.

Concern over impact on families

A recent joint report published by six churches and religious bodies examining the impact of benefit sanctions found that in a single year 100,000 children had been affected by the legislation.

Additionally, every day over 100 sanctions are imposed on people who have been medically assessed as unfit to work as a result of mental health issues.

An estimated 13,000 people have already been sanctioned in Fife.

Fife has the fourth largest proportion of Jobseekers Allowance claimants receiving an adverse sanction decision in Scotland.