PCS says an estimated £20 million – £250 each on average – is being withheld from unemployed and disabled people this month

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, PCS, UK unions, Austerity

Bad Xmas treeMore than 80,000 UK families face a bleak Christmas because their benefits have been stopped, the PCS says.

An estimated £20 million – £250 each on average – is being withheld from unemployed and disabled people this month under the government’s punitive and controversial sanctions regime.

Using Department for Work and Pensions data, the union calculates 74,000 people will lose more than £19 million in jobseeker’s allowance – an estimated 2,000% increase since the Christmas before the coalition government took office.

Almost £700,000 in employment and support allowance is being taken away from 6,800 disabled people this month.

The union is opposed to the system, known as the stricter benefits regime, which means jobseekers can have their benefits removed for up to three years and which charities cite as a reason for the rise in the use of food banks.

People are being punished for simply turning up late to an interview or refusing to work for free

DWP continues to claim there are no targets for advisers in jobcentres to refer people for sanctions, but the union has provided evidence that the department’s appraisal system, linked to the disciplinary procedure, is used to enforce ‘expectation’ levels.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “There is no evidence that stopping people’s benefits improves their chances of finding long-term employment.

“Many are being punished for simply turning up late to an interview or refusing to work for free for a profitable company on one of the government’s failing workfare schemes.

“Use of these sanctions has spiralled in recent years, but they do nothing but heap blame and misery on some of the poorest in our society and they should be scrapped.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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