‘Fairness’ was the word Lord Freud used to justify the lowering of the benefit cap. But there is no fairness to be found in a policy that ignores assessed need, mostly affects people who can’t work to increase their income, and hits households with children in 93 per cent of cases.
It’s back. Tonight sees the return of Benefits Street on TV screens. Series 2 focuses on Kingston Road on the Tilery Estate in Stockton-On-Tees. Channel 4’s promotional blurb claims: ‘Benefit Street reveals the reality of life on benefits, as the residents of streets in areas hit hard by the recession invite cameras into their tight-knit communities.’
If I need to take a day off work, I don’t usually lose one month’s salary as a result. However, if you’re claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and delays to your bus journey mean you arrive ten minutes late for an interview at the Jobcentre, you could well find yourself having your benefit stopped for four weeks or more through a sanction.
At Child Poverty Action Group, we’ve had longstanding concerns about the use of sanctions, which are basically cuts to benefit payments of up to 100% for up to 3 years, and the obvious knock-on impacts on child poverty. And as the letter in today's Times that we and others have signed shows, we’re not alone in having profound concerns with how sanctions are working.