One Third Of Homeless People Hit By Benefit Sanctions

Just when you think the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith really can’t sink any lower, they manage to find ways of making you really sick. The Void has a very strong interest in reporting and commenting on the problems of the homeless. Here he discusses a report by the charity Homeless Link, revealing the immense harm done to the homeless by having their benefits cut or stopped altogether. All this had been done under the pretext of motivating them to get back to work. Now, I am by no means an expert on homelessness, but I should guess that the reasons many of them are homeless are the same reasons they have been unable to find or hold down a job, such as the severe drug, alcohol or mental health problems the report mentions as being exacerbated by the DWP’s stoppage of their benefits. What is particularly disgusting is that some of these have had their benefits stopped through events that were completely beyond their control, and which most people would argue were entirely good reasons why they could not attend their meeting at the Job Centre. The Void mentions one instance in which a man was sanctioned for non-attendance, who was actually in hospital. Another man had his benefits stopped because he took his daughter to hospital instead of going to his interview. The Void also quotes the report to show the demoralising effect this has on homeless people trying to get back off the street, who find themselves knocked back down. One of the items in this report, which I found particularly disturbing was the statement that Hardship Payments were being converted into loans. This effectively means that the homeless person, who is fortunate enough to get one of these discretionary payments, has their benefit cut while they pay it off. Many of the homeless already have problems budgeting. Stoppages and cuts in benefits will only make matters worse. What is needed is better support to help alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally ill recover, more hostels and truly affordable housing. There’s also a need to tackle the wider societal issues behind homelessness, such as family break-up and child abuse – many of the homeless may be battered wives, or young people fleeing horrifically abusive homes; teenage pregnancy, and excessive and grossly inflated mortgages that people on ordinary incomes may find impossible to pay after their circumstances change, such as through unemployment. The government also needs to tackle the social reasons behind drug and alcohol abuse. Some of it no doubt is down to personal weakness. In other cases, it’s probably caused, at least in part, through the despair created by unemployment, poor working conditions, and the absence of any kind of opportunities for personal development or advancement. Those issues would mean, however, that the government would actually have to spend money, and it would contradict the Neo-Liberal ideology that it’s all down to personal choice and irresponsibility. It’s much easier, and so much more popular with the Sun and Mail-reading voters, to slash benefits and then scream that it’s all the fault of the homeless themselves, exploiting the generosity of those in work.

the void

sanction-sabsA damning report has been published by Homeless Link which reveals that one third of homeless people on unemployment benefits, and just under a fifth of those on the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance, have had benefits stopped or sanctioned for failing to carry out ‘Work Related Activity’.

According to Homeless Link, who are an umbrella body for homelessness organisations, many of those sanctioned have mental health conditions, learning disabilities or substance use problems.  Young homeless people and non-English speakers also face a higher risk of sanction.

Around one million benefit claims are expected to be sanctioned this year.  Sanctions can now last up to three years and leave people dependent on discretionary Hardship Payments – which are being converted into loans and are not available to everyone – of just £43 a week.  Claimants can be sanctioned for an ever growing list of offences, including missing…

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