Revealed: Scotland’s benefit sanction hotspots

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Map of sanctions across UK reveals postcode lottery 

11th March 2015 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Aberdeenshire has been revealed as Scotland’s benefit sanction hotspot – with 10 sanctions for every 100 claimants.

The revelation comes in a report produced by English homeless charity Crisis which warns of a postcode lottery in the use of sanctions across the UK.

Benefit Sanctions and Homelessness - conducted for Crisis by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University - comes as a UK parliamentary inquiry on sanctions prepares to deliver its findings later this month.

Total sanctions (per 100 claimants)
Aberdeenshire: 10.0
Clackmananshire: 9.7
East Renfrewshire: 9.1
Angus: 8.0
Fife: 8.0
Stirling: 7.4

It uncovers wide variations in how rules are being applied on the ground and provides evidence of large numbers of unfair or inappropriate decisions, with particular concern over the impact on homeless people.

It warns that homeless people may be disproportionately affected by sanctions, with many facing obstacles that make it harder for them to meet the conditions of the regime, including mental and physical health problems, a history of domestic violence and poor literacy and IT skills.

Evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime - Jon Sparkes

The report also looks at evidence suggesting that sanctions can increase people’s risk of becoming homeless, leaving them struggling with debt and without enough money for food, rent or heating.

After Aberdeenshire the highest areas for sanctions in Scotland were Clackmananshire with 9.7 and East Renfrewshire with 9.1 per 100. 

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The government has assured us that benefit sanctions are only for those who refuse to play by the rules. But evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime.

“Sanctions are cruel and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness – cold, hungry and utterly destitute. At the same time, people who are already homeless can struggle to meet the conditions of the regime. Many are trying to rebuild their lives, and losing the support of benefits can be disastrous.

"This isn’t helping people into work. It’s kicking them when they’re down.”

The report also provides evidence of large numbers of unfair or inappropriate decisions.

It shows how half of all "reconsidered" sanction decisions are overturned and that job centres are often uncertain about how rules should be applied on the ground. Work Programme sanctions are most likely to be overturned (19%), suggesting that people are often being wrongly penalised through this route.

Sparkes added: “We want our next government to commit to an urgent, wide-ranging review looking at the appropriateness and effectiveness of sanctions, especially for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.”

12th March 2015 by John Cunningham

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