Benefit Sanctions

Please watch the following videos about Benefit Sanctions. Why am I writing about this now? It seems to me that much of the publicity concerning the unfair treatment of benefit claimants is dying down, forgotten, swept under the carpet. I came across this video quite by accident and just had to blog about it. It is good that this young man spoke out despite the consequences, more people need to do so. If you work in a job centre and unfairly sanction benefit claimants you are part of a great injustice which should not be tolerated in any modern progressive society.

If you have received a benefit sanction you can get help here:
https://gingerbread.org.uk/content/2080/If-you-receive-a-sanction?gclid=CMzwpoGV09ECFUcQ0wodTb0BAQ

The videos below shed light on the injustice of benefit sanctions

What I learned working in a UK job centre #WeAreAllDanielBlake

“With the new and acclaimed Ken Loach movie I, Daniel Blake finally hitting screens, here is why I believe we need a strong and supportive welfare system. My story includes experience both of signing on and working in a UK job centre. This is why I am Daniel Blake.”

Why I Am Daniel Blake

“This is my experience of the welfare system, and why I’m not ashamed of it. Please make and share your own videos about your own. We are all Daniel Blake.”

“I am Daniel Blake” refers to the movie I Daniel Blake: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms/film/i_daniel_blake

I am Daniel Blake – and there are millions more like me

“What kind of person are you if you aren’t angry, devastated, furious, howling when you leave the cinema after seeing Ken Loach’s Palme D’Or winning film, I, Daniel Blake?

If you aren’t angry that Stephanie Bottrill deliberately walked in front of an articulated lorry on the M6, after her benefits were sanctioned, what kind of person are you?

If you aren’t angry that Linda Wootton died within weeks of being assessed fit for work, as her letters from the Department of Work and Pensions were delivered to her hospital bed, what kind of person are you?”

Read More:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/22/i-am-daniel-blake-millions-like-me-jack-monroe-ken-loach This article is well worth taking the time to read for its invaluable insight of what it is like in the UK if you are unfortunate not only to not have employment but to be sick and disabled.

The film I Daniel Blake is once again highlighting the plight of people on benefits and hopefully revives public awareness of this great injustice.

The 2017 award for outstanding British film has gone to I, Daniel Blake at the Baftas.

“Winning the BAFTA for Best British Film, Loach used the platform to speak out both against the current state of the benefits systems – which forms the underpinning theme of his film – and the Government’s reversal on its promises to accept thousands of refugee children fleeing the terrors of Syria and other deadly conflicts.”

BAFTAs 2017: Watch Ken Loach’s passionate attack on the Government’s ‘disgraceful’ treatment of refugees

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/baftas-ken-loach-i-daniel-blake-acceptance-speech-refugees-syria-government-benefits-a7576676.html

Is the film accurate?

The deaths, sanctions and starvation that prove I, Daniel Blake is accurate – despite what some critics say

Read the complete article:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/i-daniel-blake-accuracy-ken-loach-benefits-sanctions-deaths-iain-duncan-smith-toby-young-a7384581.html

I, Daniel Blake is a realistic depiction of life on benefits. Isn’t it?
Frances Ryan

“Accusations that the film is inaccurate are part of the ongoing attempt to dismiss what is being done to vulnerable people in Britain’s toxic social security system.”

Read the complete article
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/16/daniel-blake-realistic-life-benefits – Includes video the real Daniel Blakes

Clearly “I Daniel Blake” is an accurate depiction of how people on benefits are treated and the hardships they endure.

For anyone who does not know, and frankly I rather suspect many people are unaware of this unfair treatment of people on benefits including sick and disabled people on ESA, Sanctions are a form of punishment – there can be no other word for it – for people who have infringed on DWP rules. Such as failing to turn up for appointments even if there is a reasonable excuse and the person has telephoned to explain, being late for appointments even if only by a minute or two , or the claimant has been determined to not have made sufficient job applications. As a penalty for these supposed infringements, most of which are in themselves unjust and unreasonable, the claimant’s benefit is stopped for a minimum of four weeks !  In some cases benefits have been sanctioned for three years.

If goes without saying that sanctions result in much suffering and lead to poverty, hunger debt, homelessness, an increase in depression and other ill-health even suicide and crime in order to survive. One shocking case is that of  David Clapson, who died penniless and starving without even the money to pay for his electricity to keep his fridge running in which he stored his insulin, and this is the reason he died.

Here is another example of an ex soldier sanctioned unfairly
http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/ex-soldier-darren-veal-loses-universal-credit-after-failing-to-make-jobcentre-meeting/story-29939999-detail/story.html

Below is a list of some of the more unreasonable and unfair benefit sanctions.  There are many more, as so many of these injustices go unreported.

A Selection of Especially Stupid Benefit Sanctions

http://stupidsanctions.tumblr.com/

Take Action

Please sign the petition:

Benefit Sanctions Must Be Stopped Without Exceptions in UK

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk

“I Daniel Blake”,Ken Loach’s BAFTA winning masterpiece is out now on DVD & Blu-ray. 

Here is the official Trailer:

More Information

Despite all the evidence to the contrary the government continue to claim that sanctions work

“Even more shocking is the claim that Sanctions, can be handed out indiscriminately simply to meet job centre targets

Read More:
Jobcentre ‘hit squads’ set up benefit claimants to fail, says former official
Bosses accused of setting targets for sanctions, while unscrupulous staff targeted weak and vulnerable customers
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/20/jobcentre-hit-squads-benefit-claimants-sanctions

Why sanction benefits when there’s no proof the harsh approach works?

“The National Audit Office (NAO), fulfilling its invaluable role as the voters’ official fact checker, reports today that – surprise – government policy is once again evidence-lite. This time the policy in question is benefits sanctions, which has caused so much misery in the past five years. No one, it turns out, actually measures whether the government gets value for money from sanctioning benefit claimants if, for example, they miss an interview at the jobcentre, nor even whether sanctions actually do what they are supposed to do and improve attendance rates at jobcentres.”

Read More:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/benefits-sanctions-imposed-proof-work-welfare-nao-jobcentres

Benefits sanctions: a policy based on zeal, not evidence

“Most damning of all is the unravelling of the claim by ministers that sanctions are instrumental in getting people into work. This was a fragile claim to begin with: the DWP’s own advisers have pointed out that there is no evidence to support it. Employment companies running the DWP’s work programme warned last year that for most jobseekers, sanctions actually made getting a job harder.”

Read More:
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/30/benefits-sanctions-a-policy-based-on-zeal-not-evidence

Benefits sanctions don’t work and plunge claimants into ‘hunger and depression’, National Audit Office finds

The benefit sanctions system has become a ‘postcode lottery’ and is doing more harm than good, according to the public spending watchdog
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefits-sanctions-plunging-claimants-into-hunger-and-depression-cuts-dwp-government-theresa-may-a7446166.html

 

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The Injustice of Food Banks

food-bank

No Matter where you go it is difficult to escape or avoid any of the great social injustices here in the UK, one of the reasons that I cannot understand the lack of outrage concerning many of these grave social wrongs to which most people remain oblivious. Why aren’t people marching in their thousands, even their millions, down to parliament and demanding the Tories get out of government, demanding a cessation of the unfair treatment of people on benefits –  the sick and disabled, the unemployed and the low paid – an end to austerity, and tax evasion by corporations, to name some of the most prominent of injustices in the UK today.

One of signs of these injustices concerns the proliferation of food banks.

My husband and son enjoy visiting old churches and other historic buildings and in many of these churches you will find a collection point for local food banks, which shows that the problem is more serious than we are led to believe if we are under the impression that it is the Throstle Trust alone which distributes food to poor people here in the UK. You would also be amazed at the places you come across that collect for local people who cannot afford to buy food most likely as a result of low wages and Tory welfare reforms including benefit sanctions, and other austerities. In some cases these may be quite affluent areas of the country, such as the Cumbrian Lake District.

According to research by the independent two thirds of people relying on food banks  blamed benefit sanctions, while 12 per cent said cuts to welfare were the reasons that they were forced to use food banks. Low wages are also to blame.

The fact that people here in the UK one of the richest countries in the world need to reply on food banks or go hungry shames us. The fact that few people question this outrage shames us.

Food banks supply food for three days only  – this applies to The Throssle Trust food banks, I have no information concerning other food banks.

Though food banks are of great importance, as they fill the crack left by this great social injustice here in the UK where people go hungry while shops are bursting with food in abundance, the fact remains that people here in one of the richest countries in the world are struggling to feed themselves and their families.

Learn more about The Trussell Trust
http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-projects

In the year after we celebrated the Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch, exceeding the reign of Queen Victoria, perhaps we should also note that for many people here in the UK food banks, as a result of government policy, are returning us to the Victorian age of poverty and destitution.

In one of the richest countries in the world, why are we tolerating a situation where food banks are needed? The Tories have dragged this country back to the Victorian era, while their donors and corporations are not even paying their taxes,  poor, sick and disabled people are being driven to poverty and degradation. This shames every one of us who is content to let this happen, though there surely can be few of us who are not somehow affected by what the Tories have done since they came into power.

The three main reasons people are referred to food banks are 1) benefit delays, 2) low income, and 3) benefit changes.

If people were paid a living wage and not exploited with poor wages then benefits for working people would not need to exist in the first place, benefits that are in any case so inadequate and may be sanctioned at any time for no good reason. Low wages and inadequate benefits drive people to use food banks. In a just society where sick and disabled people were getting enough income to live on, food banks would not be needed. It is only since Tory welfare cuts have food banks risen to the enormous extent that they are today.

Please speak out against this grave social injustice and write to your MP today

Contact your MP
http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/contacting-your-mp/

Latest news concerning food banks

Welcome to the bank where financial advice is free – it’s a food bank
http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jan/30/financial-advice-food-bank-struggling-people-guidance

This is all well and good but for people who are on sanctions with zero money coming in or a very low-income managing money advice is irrelevant of course – you cannot manage what you do not have.Benefits even when receiving the full rate and these days few people are, are grossly inadequate.  Advice to people under the threat of sanctions of course is a good thing as is help and advice applying for what puny benefits are available. But although well meaning and in many cases a great asset to many, the real solution is to do something about benefits cuts and low wages.

Britons driven to food banks by poverty seen as ‘collateral damage’ by DWP, says Trussell Trust
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britons-driven-to-food-banks-by-poverty-seen-as-collateral-damage-by-dwp-says-trussell-trust-a6794101.html

Related Links

Trussell Trust Scots food bank referrals top 60,000
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-34849661

Benefit sanctions hit 100,000 children – time to rethink sanctions
http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/rethinksanctions

Dear Richard Littlejohn: Please Don’t Pretend That Hunger and Poverty Are Not Real, Right Here, Right Now
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sarah-chapman/foodbanks-richard-littlejohn_b_8123772.html

Food bank use is “strange” during an obesity crisis, claims Tory health minister
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/food-bank-use-strange-during-6911248

Please Sign Petition: Equality 4 Mental Health

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Every day, though, sometimes more than once a day, sometimes all day, a coppery taste in my mouth, which I termed intense insipidity, heralded a session of helpless, bottomless misery in which I would lie curled in a fetal position on the sofa with tears leaking from my eyes, my brain boiling with a confusion of stuff not worth calling thought or imagery: it was more like shredded mental kelp marinaded in pure pain. During and after such attacks, I would be prostrate with inertia, as if all my energy had gone into a black hole.
Les Murray, Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression

An apt description of the misery of depression which is perhaps the most common of all mental health problems. Without exception mental illness is a serious and significant disability, it is long-term in many cases, often chronic becoming worse as time goes on, most particularly if left untreated. Did you know that by 2020 mental illness will be the biggest cause of mortality.  Yet understanding and treatment of this condition is neglected.

Please read the following rticle from the Huffington Post and sign the petition

Equality 4 Mental Health

Equality 4 Mental Health is a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services.

I joined this campaign because it’s appalling that there isn’t parity between mental and physical health.

Any professional in the field will tell you that any activity in the brain affects the entire body, so why is there such a stigma if the most important organ in your body is malfunctioning? The research into Alzheimer’s and dementia is one of the most prevalent problems of this decade and these are brain diseases so why should depression or bi-polar be any different? Why is it that they’re discriminated against? The waiting lines for mental illness are endless, whereas, if you suffer from a physical illness you will certainly be seen.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ruby-wax/equality-4-mental-health_b_8459466.html

Please sign the following petition.

Equality for mental health is a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the Government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services.

http://equality4mentalhealth.uk/

Please share this petition widley.  Please tweet #equality4mentalhealth and help spread the word:
https://twitter.com/hashtag/equality4mentalhealth

Be sure to read the petition information along with a list of ten concerns regarding mental health. I think an additional concern should be included, namely the DWPs shocking treatment of mentally ill people concerning benefit sanctions – more than 100 people with mental health issues have their benefits sanctioned every day. There were almost 20,000 benefits sanctions received by people who were out of work because of their mental health last year Without a doubt benefit sanctions are damaging mental health and the government refuses to examine the effect of its benefit sanctions system on the mental health of people who are affected by it.

Check out the comments section in the Huffington Post article where a parent has shared her experiences with the difficulties of trying to get a diagnosis and treatment for her very sick daughter.

“My daughter was diagnosed with ASD when she was thirteen, it took two years to get a diagnosis, during which time her mental health deteriorated so dramatically that by the age of fourteen she had symptoms of a psychosis. We had to take her to A and E to receive emergency treatment because even whilst she was classed as an emergency, the waiting time for a referral to CAHMS was six weeks. She was desperately ill and suicidal (because of disturbing intrusive thoughts) but we were told if we couldn’t cope, we should phone an ambulance and they would try to find her a hospital place, which could be anywhere in the country (even though there was the right facility just five minutes drive from us, there were no beds) If no beds were available nationally, she would be taken to a police station. We were determined not to let this happen and thankfully once the medication began to work her condition stabilised. She was later diagnosed with OCD which presents symptoms of a psychosis in severe cases. The tragedy is she suffered for a long time: not days, weeks or months but years. I can’t help but think all this was preventable, because she was eleven years old when I first went to my GP and spoke to him about her increasing levels of anxiety and social isolation. She is slowly getting better now but her childhood has been lost and the scars are permanent.”

Sadly so far this is but one of only two comments which shows just how much the general public give a damn about mental illness.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in many cases is a severe and an incredibly disabling condition. The World Health Organisation rate OCD as one of the top 10 debilitating illnesses.

Regarding the above comment it has to be said that getting a diagnosis can be one of the greatest hurdles to receiving appropriate support and treatment. Even a few decades ago someone with OCD would likely be told that they suffered from anxiety without the more definite and precise diagnosis of OCD. Without a diagnosis not only is it difficult to get the correct therapy but the person themselves, relatives or significant others can do little accurate research into the problems the sufferer is experiencing or learn how to best support the sufferer. Moreover getting benefits is much more difficult without a formal diagnosis. I know of someone who went for several years simply being told that her obsessions and compulsions were due to anxiety and it was not until the person was admitted to a mental hospital did she receive a formal diagnosis.

Few people understand the misery of mental illness, the loneliness, the isolation, the hopelessness and the despair unless they themselves suffer in this way. Sympathy is lacking, ignorance abounds. People who suffer with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in our society. Yet few people speak out on their behalf. A sufferer of any mental health problem, be it agoraphobia or schizophrenia, often do not have the where with all to seek treatment or stand up for their rights and this latter is mostly likely why this evil government has focused its attention on picking on the mentally ill in their endeavours to reduce the benefit bill.

Please take action and sign the petition and get others to do so.

Related Links

My son’s struggle with OCD showed me the unfairness people with mental illness face

“My insight from our experience is of how mental ill health, left untreated, robs the person of happiness and has a profound impact on families.”

Read the complete article:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/04/ocd-mental-illness-services-wellbeing-families?CMP=share_btn_tw  – Note in the article that unlike people with a physical illness sufferers of mental health conditions do not get a right to choose where they get treatment  – it was excluded from the legal right of choice.

Mentally ill girl’s two days in police cell ‘heartbreaking’

“A mentally ill teenager who was held in a cell for two days due to a lack of hospital beds suffered “heartbreaking” failings in her care, her mother says.

The 16-year-old girl was arrested in November and later sectioned. But, with no bed available, she spent two days in a cell at Torquay police station.”

“When I walked in and saw her lying there, on that floor… heartbreaking,” she said.

“She was on a blue thing on the floor – it’s not even what you class as a police bed.

“She needed the right help. The police, I can’t fault them, they did an amazing job looking after my child.”

Read the complete article:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-30917334

Public figures sign letter seeking equality for mental health
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/02/public-figures-sign-letter-seeking-equality-mental-health

Self-harm by mental health patients in NHS has risen by 56%, figures show
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/27/self-harm-suicide-mental-health-patients-nhs-rises-56-per-cent

A selection of quotations concerning mental illness

Though many schizophrenics become curiously attached to their delusions, the fading of the nondelusional world puts them in loneliness beyond all reckoning, a fixed residence on a noxious private planet they can never leave, and where they can receive no visitors.
Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

It seemed to me the basic definition of mental illness, this persistent, painful inability to simply be with someone else. It might be lifelong, or it might descend like a sudden catastrophe, this blankness between ourselves and the rest of the world. The blankness might not even be obvious to others. But on our side of that severed connection, it was hell, a life lived behind glass. The only difference between mild depression and severe schizophrenia was the amount of sound and air that seeped in.
Tracy Thompson, The Beast: A Reckoning with Depression

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. 
John Milton, Paradise Lost