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Con-Dem benefit sanctions hit Scottish disabled and under-25s the hardest, a new study reveals

July 9, 2014 10:35 PM
By Keith McLeod in http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk

A NEW Citizens Advice Scotland report has found thousands of Scots have been pushed deeper into poverty by Coalition Governments benefit cuts.

THOUSANDS of sick, disabled and unemployed Scots are going without meals, gas and electricity because of Con-Dem Government benefits cuts, a study claims.

And many of those hit have no idea why they've been punished.

The findings come from Citizens Advice Scotland, who quizzed their own advisers on the effect of benefits sanctions.

They said instead of encouraging the unemployed back to work, the cuts push people into poverty.

Changes brought in by the Westminster Government hit 900,000 Jobseekers' Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance claimants across the UK in 2013.

Many people seeking CAB Scotland help said they weren't given prior notice of sanctions being imposed. The hardest hit were the disabled, the under-25s and single people.

About 94 per cent of CAB Scotland advisers said they had seen an increase in the number of people asking for advice on sanctions.

Nine out of 10 advisers said benefits cuts had led directly to a huge rise in demand for foodbanks, spiralling debt and health concerns.

The report, Sanctioned - What Benefit?, states: "Our evidence suggests that the loss of income brought about by sanctions is causing severe hardship and a rise in the number of food parcel referrals.

"It is putting tenancies and debt repayments at risk and, in some cases, is having a severe impact on claimants' health and wellbeing.

"To operate effectively, CAB believes a sanctions and conditionality regime must be transparent and well communicated, take into account individual circumstances and be fair and consistently applied."

CAB Scotland chief executive Margaret Lynch said: "Being sanctioned means your benefit money is stopped - from a minimum of a week to as long as three years.

"That is the money you live on. The money you use to heat your home, feed and clothe yourself and your family, pay your bills and travel to get to the Jobcentre to look for work.

"Can you imagine what it must be like to have that money taken away? To do without an income? Take it one step further and think about what it would mean to have your income stopped and not know why, not know for how long and not know what you can do about it.

"That's the reality faced by many of the clients CAB see every day.

"For some, they don't know why. For others, it was due to unavoidable circumstances."

Sanctions can be imposed if it's felt claimants aren't doing enough to find work, are not co-operationg with Jobcentres, are late signing on, or don't have evidence of jobs they have applied for.

Paul's Story

Paul, 28, who worked in the dairy industry for many years, was made redundant in 2009.

Last year, he received conflicting advice from Jobcentre staff on tasks he had to do to find work.

Paul, from Stranraer, was ruled to have dipped below targets set and was sanctioned last December.

He has lived on a hardship payment of £39 per week for most of the time since then.

He's had no heating since early January and struggles to find food.

His payment is low as council tax is deducted, along with money owed to the Jobcentre for internet use - to find a job.

Paul said: "I was sanctioned last December but didn't find out until January when I went to sign on.

"The gas ran out and I've had to just wear layers of clothes.

"I've distanced myself from my friends. It's embarrassing to be living on this amount of money."

Paul, who is single and lives alone, was earning £20,000-plus while in work. To boost his earnings, he did a lot of overtime.

He added: "I've worked in shops for free to get experience and hope to start in the care industry.

"The whole experience has been dreadful. Jobcentres don't seem interested in helping, whereas Citizens Advice have been excellent."