The above article is from The Leader.
A deaf benefit claimant was wrongly sanctioned after turning up to a training course just ten minutes late, the Upper Tribunal has ruled.
Despite the sanction being imposed in November 2013, he had to wait until 14 August 2015 to have his appeal heard by the Upper Tribunal.
The unnamed 53 year-old benefit claimant has hearing difficulties and wears a hearing aid in his right ear. He was told to attend a CV writing course and given a “Jobseeker’s Direction” letter to confirm the time and date of the course, reports Disability Rights UK.
After arriving just ten minutes late for the appointment, a decision was taken to cut his benefits for four weeks for failing to adhere to the “jobseeker’s Direction”.
The claimant argued at the Tribunal that he had incorrectly heard the date of the appointment, because his hearing aid was faulty, and didn’t check the time of the appointment on the letter he was given.
He visited a Jobcentre Plus office straight away to arrange another appointment and completed the CV writing course on the following day.
Upper Tribunal Judge Knowles said there was no evidence that he had deliberately refused to attend the appointment, or carry out the jobseeker’s direction.
Judge Knowles said: “Having regard to all the circumstances, did the Appellant’s late arrival at his CV writing course amount to a failure or a refusal to carry out his Jobseeker’s Direction?
“First, the Appellant did not refuse to carry out his Jobseeker’s Direction: he was merely 10 minutes late in attending the course. As the Respondent submits, it was inherently improbable that this Appellant would have deliberately attended late given his past record of compliance.
“Second, the Appellant’s late arrival was accepted by both the Respondent and the tribunal to have been a genuine error.
“Third, the Appellant reported his late arrival to the Job Centre that same day and rebooked the CV writing course which he subsequently completed.
“Set against these matters is the Appellant’s late arrival contrary to the terms of his Jobseeker’s Direction.
“However I find that it would be disproportionate to conclude that this factor in isolation was sufficient to amount to a failure by the Appellant to carry out his Jobseeker’s Direction.”
The number of sick and disabled people affected by the government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime rocketed by 31% in the last year, the Daily Mirror has reported.
According to the Mirror, figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that 33,357 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants saw their benefit payments docked in 2014-15.
This, the newspaper says, equates to around 6.8 sanctions for every 100 claimants and is 31% higher than the previous year; when the proportion of sanctions stood at 5.2 per every 100 claimants.
A report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee earlier this year called for a “full independent review” into the benefit sanctions regime.
Former chair of the committee Dame Anne Begg said in March: “Benefit sanctions are controversial because they withhold subsistence-level benefits from people who may have little or no other income.
“We agree that benefit conditionality is necessary but it is essential that policy is based on clear evidence of what works in terms of encouraging people to take up the support which is available to help them get back into work.
“The policy must then be applied fairly and proportionately. The system must also be capable of identifying and protecting vulnerable people, including those with mental health problems and learning disabilities.
“And it should avoid causing severe financial hardship. The system as currently applied does not always achieve this.”
The members of the committee were changed following the general election, with Labour’s Frank Field appointed as the new chairperson.
Benefit sanctions have often been described as a ‘post-code lottery’, with jobseekers in some parts of the country more likely to have their benefits stopped than those in other towns and cities
BBC News has reported how jobseekers in Dundee were 50% more likely to be sanctioned than those living in Glasgow.
THE Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has published guidelines to jobcentres acknowledging that social security sanctions actively damage the health of claimants.
The guidelines state that imposing benefit sanctions for two weeks or more will “usually” damage the health of a claimant. As has been widely reported, many social security sanctions last significantly longer than this, and are sometimes indefinite.
In a section on dealing with vulnerable members of society, official decision makers (DMs) were advised to consider whether the health and wellbeing of a vulnerable person would be damaged more than the average person.
The guideline states: “It would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health if they were without: 1. Essential items such as food, clothing, heating and accommodation, or 2. Sufficient money to buy essential items for a period of two weeks.”
It goes on to state:”The DM must decided if the health of the person with the medical condition would decline more than a normal healthy adult.”
John McArdle of the Black Triangle Campaign, a lobbying group that advocates the rights of disabled people, was quoted in the Herald stating: “What decent civilised person would look at that and be anything other than utterly appalled by it?
“We are trying to persuade the Scottish Government to legislate to protect people. We also feel they could do more to educate family doctors about the issues of disabled people falling through the net and being sanctioned.”
A spokesperson from the DWP proclaimed that the guidelines did not simply mean that the department believed that sanctions harm health. Yet when asked for an alternative interpretation, they were unable to provide one.
The above article is from commonplace.scot
A MOTHER was called the day after her son’s funeral to ask why he hadn’t attended a meeting about his Jobseekers’ Allowance.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has apologised to Jacqueline Brown, who says she was appalled to receive the phone call on Tuesday, despite filling out all the necessary forms to tell them what had happened.
Jacqueline’s son, 31-year-old James, was first taken to hospital with meningitis several weeks earlier.
“I think it’s disgraceful what they have done,” she said.
“Less than 24 hours after I buried my son I was taking calls demanding to know where he was.
“I did everything they asked and they have lied to me and continued to keep contacting me.”
James was found unconscious in his Toothill home by police in June and was first taken to the Great Western Hospital before being transferred to the John Radcliffe in Oxford to treat an infection in his brain.
Despite the treatment, he did not regain consciousness and remained in a coma for several weeks. Before he died on July 24, Jacqueline remained hopeful he would recover and was concerned he would lose his Jobseekers Allowance while in hospital, leaving him unable to pay rent.
“I went into the Jobcentre and the person I spoke to told me I would need to get legal advice first,” said Jacqueline.
“I asked if there was a form. He went away and came back with the form I had to fill in.
“I came back a week later with all the documents, including one from the hospital to say James was there.
“This time the man was really helpful and stamped everything to say it was in order.”
But the money was stopped and Jacqueline was told it was because James had not attended meetings.
She was given power of attorney of her son’s affairs but still the DWP were not convinced,.When her son died Jacqueline was advised to fill out an online form which should have notified every department.
But the devastated mother continued to be contacted, culminating in Tuesday’s call about the missed meeting. A DWP spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Mr Brown. We are sorry for what has happened and have been in touch with Mrs Brown to apologise.”
A WOMAN who stole the cheapest food in a store because she was hungry and had no money was told by a magistrate it was not acceptable she stole “just for being hungry”.
Louisa Sewell was the latest victim of benefit sanctions to appear before magistrates when she stole a four pack of Mars bars, worth just 75p, from Heron Foods in the Swan Centre, Kidderminster, on June 22, because she had not eaten in days.
Adrian Jones, prosecuting, said the 32-year-old was seen on CCTV picking the confectionary and putting it in her body warmer before leaving the store without paying.
In mitigation, her solicitor Susie Duncan said Sewell’s benefits had been sanctioned and she had no money or anyone to turn to for help so had not eaten for days when she stole the cheapest food from the store.
She said: “She fully accepts this offence of theft. She said she was really hungry. She had no money.
“In her interview she said she was really hungry, had no money for food, and took the lowest value item she could find.”
The defendant had been given food bank vouchers but it was closed when she went, Miss Duncan added.
Sewell, of Comberton Road, Kidderminster, pleaded guilty to theft when she appeared at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, August 6.
Chairman of the magistrates Maurice Lashford did not accept Sewell’s reasons for the theft.
He said: “We do not readily accept you go into a shop to steal just for being hungry.”
He fined Sewell £73 for the theft and ordered she pay 75p in compensation to the store. He also imposed £150 in court charges, £85 in prosecution costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
The article above is copied from http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/
Mental health charity, Mind, have expressed ‘extreme concern’ following the revelation that sanctioned jobseekers with mental illness are not classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
DWP guidance on hardship payments for sanctioned Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants says a person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if they have an accompanying physical health problem.
Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind said:
“We are extremely concerned that this guidance does not consider people with mental health problems to be vulnerable compared to those who are living with physical health problems.
“Making such a distinction could result in further financial difficulties for those affected by mental health problems, in addition to the distress caused by being sanctioned in the first place.”
Tom Pollard from Mind said they were seeking clarity from the DWP as to why people with mental health problems who have had their benefits stopped aren’t considered to be vulnerable in this instance.
The use of sanctioning, where a claimants money is stopped for between four weeks and three years, has become widespread since the government toughened the rules in 2012.
This week the Guardian revealed that one in six jobseekers face having their benefits cut off each year.
It is thought around 23% of jobseekers suffer with mental health conditions.
However, it is unclear how many mentally ill JSA claimants are being sanctioned as DWP do not have any data showing this.
A DWP spokesman said: “We absolutely recognise mental health conditions through the benefit system, with mental health champions and other support for individuals to find work through Jobcentre Plus”.