Tories step up war on the unemployed – new callous sanctions regime

Protest outside Parliament last September against the £20 cut to Universal Credit

JOHNSON’S Tory government have stepped up their war on the unemployed ratcheting up the sanctions regime, which leaves some of the most vulnerable people without a penny to feed themselves or their children, heat or light their home or pay rent.

As of yesterday people will have to look outside their work sectors after just four weeks, rather than three months, or face sanctions.

The Tories want to drive 500,000 jobseekers off benefits by the end of June, using a ‘beat the poor’ ethos of attempting to force the unemployed to take a job, any job, no matter how dire the pay and conditions are.

As part of a scheme called ‘Way to Work’, claimants will have to ‘widen their job search’ outside their previous occupation or sector after four weeks, rather than three months. Their benefits will be cut if they are deemed to ‘not be making reasonable efforts to get a job’, or if they turn down a job offer.

Sanctions are a punishment applied to benefit claimants adjudged to have infringed jobcentre rules. If claimants fail to turn up for appointments or to apply for enough jobs, officials effectively fine them by stopping their benefit payments for a minimum of four weeks Alison McGovern, Labour’s shadow employment minister, said: ‘This announcement has more to do with trying to save the prime minister’s job than supporting people into work.’

Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem work and pensions spokesperson, said: ‘This callous move could see skilled workers forced to accept insecure, short-term employment for fear of having the rug pulled out from under them, and create a cycle of unemployment.

‘What is worse, these harsh sanctions could be applied within weeks of applying for Universal Credit – before people’s first payment even arrives.’

Liane Groves, Head of Unite Community said: ‘This will not help benefits’ claimants.

‘Forcing people into jobs that they aren’t a good match for doesn’t help anyone.

‘Sanctions don’t work, they have never worked. People can’t focus on finding work if they can’t eat or feed their families.’

The government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, found no evidence that benefit sanctions work, and concluded that they were as likely to force people to stop claiming benefits without getting a job as they were to get them into employment.

The last big sanctions drive occurred between 2010 and 2016 when, at its height, 1 million people a year were sanctioned, leading to widespread poverty and hardship.