IDS’s gradual criminalisation of poverty

The government is intent on extending benefit sanctions by stealth


Recipients of welfare compensation are having their benefits stopped or reduced because of sanctions being doled out by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The extent to which a sanctions culture has been engrained in our social security system has yet to fully emerge.

That’s why I have been working with Baroness Jenny Jones to table a series of Parliamentary questions to expose the mainstreaming of sanctions, including the extension of sanctions to people in work.

The DWP claims that sanctions are only used as a last resort and in a small minority of cases. They have even put a number on it, claiming that 94 per cent of Jobseeker’s aren’t sanctioned.

But Iain Duncan Smith’s department has form when it comes to fiddling the figures. At the end of 2014, 900,000 people claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance but over 600,000 Jobseeker sanctions were issued. It is plainly obvious that Iain Duncan Smith’s department is being far from transparent.

The government is stubbornly refusing to publish an annual sanction rate. The data, they claim, would be prohibitively expensive.

This is nonsense, and the government must come clean. By taking the number of jobseekers at the beginning of a year, adding new claimants, and taking away those who find work, the true sanction rate is likely to be around 17-18 per cent. That’s around one in six jobseekers.

It is little wonder the government doesn’t want to do the maths – particularly given the growing awareness of the damage that sanctions do.

Sanctions kick people when they are down. They drive up the need for foodbanks. They target the most disadvantaged, hurting tens of thousands of children. They are unfair, punitive and in some cases lethal.

By the DWP’s own admission sanctions damage the claimant. But their rulebook merely states that someone with a health condition should not deteriorate under sanctions more than that of a healthy adult.

We know from international studies that benefit sanctions don’t help people find work. Iain Duncan Smith knew this before he began this push. But he also knew that he could proceed with next to no opposition as it was New Labour that first introduced them.

The government is intent on extending sanctions by stealth. Meanwhile, it continues to perpetuate the myth that they only apply to a few ‘undeserving’ cases.

This deception is part of the Tory attempts to rebrand poverty, rather than tackle it. The government continues to prevent the release of figures for the suicides of benefit claimants, and those who die shortly after being certified ‘fit for work’.

The Tory manifesto proposed sanctioning those who don’t accept prescribed medical treatments and therapies. This is now moving forward for drug users and the obese and mental health claimants are next in line.

Iain Duncan Smith has led the charge to criminalise poverty. But even convicted criminals serving time in prison are guaranteed food to eat.

He wrongly believes that people need to be bullied and harassed into work, all the while sitting as part of a government that has fostered an explosion of insecure, low paid jobs.

He’s even going so far as to mainstream the sanctions culture by extending it to people receiving in work tax credits. Last year, Iain Duncan Smith told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that trials were being carried out in the North-West on removing benefits from part-time workers who refuse to take on extra hours.

The mainstreaming of benefit sanctions and their extension to the working-poor is a grotesque interpretation of how social security should work. It treats those who need help as presumed guilty, not innocent. It is another example of the Tories ‘Hunger Games’ politics, seeking to divide the nation at every turn.

Jonathan Bartley is the Green Party’s work and pensions spokesperson. Follow him on Twitter

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

57 Responses to “IDS’s gradual criminalisation of poverty”

  1. stevep

    The Beveridge report in the 1940`s put paid to Victorian values and the perception of poverty as being the fault of the poor.
    We have lived in a relatively civilised society since then, with the welfare state ensuring that no-one has to suffer unnecessarily when they are disadvantaged.
    Arguments can be made about the size and scope of the welfare state, but it is, with the NHS, one of Britain`s greatest achievements.
    The Tories want rid of it for purely ideological reasons and they need a reason for doing so. Hence the demonization of being poor and claiming benefits.
    Their media toadies are backing their agenda with zeal, with ever viler attacks.

    The Victorian stance on being poor suits them just fine.
    Truly Evil.

  2. Sean Garrity

    I would put nothing past this odious poor excuse for a human he is a liar, murderer and a thief.
    It is about time he brought to justice for the crimes against humanity he has perpetrated.

    This slug needs to be introduced to some salt immediately

  3. Julie Andrews

    Am at a lose as to understand I feel i,m fighting a losing battle, I suffer from extreme anxiety was ESA claimant, found a job made redundant , have been unemployed 7 months , but start a new job Monday . I am still sick and do not know how long i can handle life or hold on. I feel suicidal daily ,so god knows whats going to happen next. i am in debt and being harassed by bailiffs. I feel I,m drowning daily. I feel demonised and tormented by this government and its policies. … They have blood on their hands but no one gives a toss about the poor as along as they are alright … living in this world is painful confusing cruel and unjust. God help us all..

  4. Alan Skidmore

    Dreadful. Sounds like you need support in your plight and distress. Cannot believe how cruel and punitive the welfare system has become. Hope God does help you and someone can act as an advocate for you and make sure you receive the help you need. Disgusting to treat I’ll and struggling people in this way

  5. AlexisWolf

    Sorry to read your post Julie. Many do care, you are not alone in this struggle. If you feel suicidal please go see your doctor. I just found this site that could help if you’ve been sanctioned.

Comments are closed.