The House of Commons Select Committee for Work and Pensions invited feedback about the role of Jobcentre Plus in welfare reform. We made sure that they heard the shocking stories of the people we work with, many of whom are being forced further into poverty by unfair rules and systems.
We sent in a submission to their inquiry, using evidence from our grassroots work to show that:
- Some individuals have been sanctioned and lost benefits through no fault of their own, but due to internal Jobcentre Plus (JCP) errors.
“How am I supposed to live? … I’m applying for 10 jobs every fortnight and [the Jobcentre] is saying that I’m not looking for work. It’s their mistake and I’m suffering.”
- Benefit sanctions leave people without the means to feed themselves or their families, leading to reliance on food banks or, in some cases, destitution.
- Sanctions are being issued for minor infringements but the penalty for these (loss of benefits for anything between two and 13 weeks) is greatly out of proportion.
“Two weeks of money lost because of loss of grey signing-on book.”
- Many people who have taken part in our programmes do not feel that JCP helps or supports them to find appropriate jobs that match their skills.
“They will not help me in getting a job I want to do, but are trying to force me into cleaning or factory work.”
- Individuals have issues with access to Jobcentre Plus including: digital exclusion, the cost of travel, problems with the helplines being busy and too expensive to call, appointments being cancelled or rearranged without notice.
- Individuals need help to understand their agreements with JCP, clear information on how to adhere to their agreements (e.g. a list of things they could be sanctioned for), and practical help such as how to use a computer or write a CV.
- People feel humiliated by the way they are treated at the Jobcentre. Being out of work and having to ask for help is difficult for many people.
“They make you feel like you’re begging. It’s degrading.”
We are calling for a further inquiry into the links between benefit sanctions, errors and delays, welfare reform changes and the growth of food poverty. Click here to find out more and take action.