100,000 children were left to starve last year as a direct result of the Tory-led coalition’s drive to cut benefit payments to the unemployed through a vicious regime of ‘sanctions’.
These were the findings of a report issued yesterday by the Church Action on Poverty organisation on the effect of benefit sanctions.
These sanctions are applied for the slightest infringement of the deliberately complicated, obscure and downright nonsensical rules that claimants are forced to follow.
Failure to strictly adhere to the thousand and one demands results in the immediate ending of benefits for anything from four weeks to three years.
Over two million people have had their money stopped in the past two years under this brutal regime of sanctions.
According to the Unite union amongst the reasons reported to them by members working in the benefit sector for applying these sanctions are: arriving minutes late for a meeting, not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job, and missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close relative.
One former jobcentre official, John Longden, giving written evidence to the ongoing parliamentary committee investigating the workings of the sanctions, described the existence of ‘hit squads’ whose purpose was to deliberately set up claimants to fail.
The existence of such hit squads and ‘targets’ issued to jobcentres setting quotas for benefits sanctions has long been documented by jobcentre workers disgusted with being used to cut benefit costs and drive workers and youth off the unemployment register.
Two jobcentre whistleblowers told a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme: ‘The Truth About Benefit Sanctions’, that they were forced to ‘hammer’ claimants to meet government targets, adding: ‘They weren’t willing to look at them as human beings.’
The net result of this relentless campaign to drive the unemployed off benefits is 100,000 children have been condemned to hunger, families facing eviction from their homes and more and more young people forced onto the streets.
Clearly for the government starving children is a small price to pay for cutting expenditure on benefit and driving people off the unemployment register – enabling them to claim that unemployment is falling and that ‘austerity’ works.
The same goes for the more than 100 people with severe mental health problems that are sanctioned every day in the country as the report reveals.
As for the 49 deaths of people who had their benefit stopped, of which a review by officials concluded 40 were apparent suicides, presumably as far as the powers that be are concerned this is hardly worth mentioning when compared to the requirement of the government to bring down the national debt of £1.4 trillion – a debt caused by the banking collapse.
The government’s position was spelt out this week by the Tory education minister, Esther McVey, who insisted to the parliamentary committee that despite all the evidence to the contrary there were no targets, that sanctions were ‘working’ and that once claimants were sanctioned it acted as a red flag and alerted the authorities that a person was vulnerable and in need of help.
The only help anyone sanctioned gets is to be shown the way to the nearest food bank or homeless shelter.
Unite have called a national day of action under the slogan ‘Stop Benefit Sanctions’ on March 19 in order (in the words of their community membership officer) ‘to send a message to Esther McVey and Westminster that the government is failing to support vulnerable people in our society’.
He added: ‘We must join forces to stop this now before more people are forced into poverty.’
There is only one way to stop this barbaric and deliberate attack on workers and their families, resulting in children starving in 21st century Britain, and that is in demanding that the unions like Unite and the whole of the TUC stop pleading and sending messages to the government, but get rid of them by calling a general strike to kick them out, and replace them with a workers government and socialism.