Benefit sanctions are set to return after the Tory welfare chief declined to extend a blanket ban on them, with Therese Coffey stating it was necessary for claimants to commit to look for work and attend appointments as Jobcentres begin to resume from July 1.
She maintained work coaches will prioritise support and a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) source emphasised sanctions would not be their focus. However, the Work and Pensions Secretary’s statement was branded ruthless as MPs warned it will add stress and misery on families while unemployment rises, with people having to remain shielded and care for their children at home.
Sanctions were suspended formally for three months from March 30 for anyone failing to look for work or attend an interview, but now the sanctions will dock people’s benefits if they don’t follow government rules.
At the time the government said the blanket ban would originally be for three months and would be evaluated and that it might be extended, but Therese Coffey denied Labour’s request for an immediate extension, and she told the Commons that it was really critical that as the Jobcentres fully open that they do restore the need for having a claimant commitment, and that it was a fundamental component of the commitment to support people starting to consider what jobs there may be.
She stated that she knows she can trust the work coaches, the Jobcentre managers who are authorised to act proactively, and that the people will require careful support tailored to ensure they can begin to look for jobs that are accessible, and that she believes that will become accessible pretty shortly, which must mean it’s not available now.
Therese Coffey had been challenged by Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds, and he stated that at the time when unemployment had grown sharply, when vacancies had sunk, when people were shielding and the schools hadn’t gone back, frightening people with reducing their financial support if they don’t look for jobs, which is clearly unreasonable.
Guidance on the government website states that preparing for and getting a job must be your full-time focus and that if you don’t do this and there is no good reason, they will cut your Universal Credit, known as a sanction.
But Labour MP Grahame Morris blasted Therese Coffey’s announcement, stating that the DWP’s own calculations suggest 31,000 additional staff are needed. He said ministers are reintroducing sanctions when the department has nowhere near the required amount of staff.
But clearly, this action will further stress and suffering on claimants and staff alike?
DWP minister Mims Davies responded that the number of work coaches would be doubled and stressed and that there would be an individual focus on the claimants.
But Labour MP Bill Esterson said that this is declaring war on numerous hard-working families who have lost their jobs in the COVID 19 crisis and was short-sighted and cruel.
Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said it was a terrible decision, and fellow Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran stated that it was an utterly heartless decision, at a time when millions of families are struggling to pay the bills, the government wants to reintroduce harsh benefits sanctions that they know will hit the most vulnerable.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union which represents DWP workers, stated that they’d always opposed the use of sanctions and that it was counterproductive and a brutal policy that penalises claimants when the social security system should be there to support people and to re-impose it on the cusp of an enormous spike in unemployment because of the coronavirus lockdown was an outright insult.
Abi Gill of homelessness charity Centrepoint said that with so many facing a lengthy period of unemployment, this really wasn’t a time for talking tough.
The point is that sanctions were never effective in helping people obtaining jobs and that they’re nothing short of cruel now for those looking for work greatly outnumber an ever-shrinking number of vacancies.
Iain Porter of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank said that the economic reality has not altered and that the social security system should not be used to coerce people into seeking jobs which currently don’t exist at a time when many will still be facing constraints.
The sanctions suspension was announced on March 25 after people were advised to stay at home and pubs and shops started closing due to coronavirus.
At the time Therese Coffey confirmed DWP staff had stopped monitoring if people were looking for and being available for work and that meant no sanction should or would be applied for that reason for the next three months.
The blanket ban was later established in legislation for three months from June 30 and the suspension of sanctions in March occurred partly because Jobcentres were closed due to coronavirus.
However, Therese Coffey told MPs that they’re now working with local managers to begin fully reopening job centres in July to help get Britain back into work.
More than 3 million people have applied for Universal Credit since March, approximately doubling the number of people on the six in one benefit.
It’s understood Jobcentres will resume in a staggered way in England from Wednesday 1 July, while those in Wales and Scotland are reopening as lockdown guidance permits it.
Face to face appointments under Universal Credit is expected to return under a blended model, enabling social distancing in Jobcentres while telephone and digital contact continue.
Separately, face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits were further suspended for three months from March.
Benefits officials have used telephone and paper-based assessments instead and it was unclear if that situation would continue or for how long but DWP minister Justin Tomlinson stated the current system remains.
In the meantime, Justin Tomlinson announced he would soon announce long-awaited innovations to the rules for fast-tracking for terminally ill people’s benefit claims. The minister said that they would be making changes but that it wouldn’t be the status quo.
And that COVID 19 caused a setback to the final part of the consultation with medical professionals and that they would be bringing forward a resolution shortly.
Elsewhere, DWP minister Will Quince introduced a legal change to end a Universal Credit loophole that left new pensioners in the lurch for two months.
People on the six in one benefit will be given a guaranteed one-off payment, equating £350 ahead, when they hit state pension age and have to leave Universal Credit.
Currently, some claimants see their Universal Credit payment end weeks before they hit state pension age, they also have to wait up to five weeks for their pension to be paid.
Mr Quince said an expected 200,000 people will profit from this measure over the next five years, getting on average an extra £350 each and that he was pleased to confirm that arrangements were being planned to put this proposal on a statutory footing.
Therese Coffey later said the Government needed to rectify features of the pensions triple lock if average earnings decline this year, as projected.
Labour MP Jeff Smith for Manchester Withington asked whether the triple lock, which sees the state pension increased each April in line with wage growth, price increases or by 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest will be maintained.
Therese Coffey said this was definitely the case and that this Government was thoroughly committed to accomplishing its manifesto pledges and she said that she believed it was fair to say that we have some situations in front of us but that it was something she was in discussion with but this was not about abandoning the triple lock in any way.
But that she could assure him that there are some consequences, of which he may not be aware, and if average incomes decline through this year, that they need to correct them in order to make certain that features of the law that are now in place can’t be set aside.
Therese Coffey who’s the Work and Pensions Secretary should go on Universal Credit herself to see if she can exist on £94.25 per week because she keeps the UK public single parent population on Universal Credit and their children in poverty in the United Kingdom.
And as far as our government are involved, people should get on their bikes and travel to wherever looking for work – just wear a mask and wash your hands, but if you catch a cough, don’t come into our office without a sick note, otherwise, you’ll get sanctioned.
But then I suppose it redirects attention from Tories like Robert Jenrick defrauding the system and tax dodgers at the top, and all those that voted Tory are going to have to endure what a lot of people have had to face over the last ten years – no work, no money and no food.
And Therese Coffey will ultimately be joining the jobless. However, she won’t be having to sign on for Universal Credit. Just another Tory minister that has failed the DWP because it’s a job that nobody actually wants, and she amongst others is a no-hoper, yet the Tories keep pretending that sanctions and those living on benefits are a worthy reason to punish.
The Tories are panicking – the debt is rising to over £350 billion, it could perhaps stretch to £40 billion and they’re now thinking about decreasing the deficit, so they need to shake some of the dole to conserve money.
But job vacancies are nosediving – job losses are still going up and mortgage approvals have depreciated and Boris Johnson looks like he’s just fell out of bed – disquieting days ahead and there are hundreds of thousands of fake middle-class Tory voters who have been mocking the disadvantaged, vulnerable and disabled for years and are now going to find out first hand the harsh, brutal actualities of voting Tory, and this is going to be epic.
Therese Coffey has never had to struggle in her life – she has no empathy and doesn’t know how a man who’s worked for forty years copes with no job, mental health difficulties and no income, but nevermind, as long as she’s well-fed – the only struggle she has is how to keep her pants up and going by the looks of Therese Coffey it doesn’t look like she’s missed a good meal in her life.
And the farming season might nearly be in full swing, and there might be plenty of vacancies but the foreign workforce will take up employment, and they will be hired because they allow themselves to be manipulated with low wages, whereas the British will not.
And the preponderance of work is far from towns and cities where most people live. Accommodation is provided but at a cost. Picking fruit and vegetables is highly proficient and arduous work and not everyone could handle it and the salaries are based on piece work.
So, let’s say this is true about these farming jobs and that they do exist. How do they expect people who live 10-15 or even up to 100 miles from their nearest farm to travel to them every day?
At the moment there are people trailing every vacancy and it’s estimated to get considerably more serious – more people, less work and the maths show they need more luck. So, instead of condemning the disadvantaged, and the unemployed, criticise the Tories who have made a career out of it.
And the Tory party are nothing more than hypocrites and cheats and Therese Coffey needs to rethink her position because this is all from a person that said food banks are good for the disadvantaged.
And this will presumably create a disturbance if people are sanctioned by the DWP and I can’t believe that Therese Coffey is doing this in the midst of a pandemic, and it’s just sheer wickedness.
The Tories must be getting short of money, as benefit sanctions account for millions of pounds in revenue, and it’s a mean way to go about it, but that’s the Tories for you, and she’s obviously not short of a bob or two so that she can buy food, so why should she give a stuff about the people who can’t afford to sustain themselves and their families.
Sanctioning someone on £72 a week is parallel to terrorism because they are too many people attempting to live on sanctions and who are gradually starving.
There are 80,000 seasonal workers needed at the moment. The next headline will be that ex amount of fruit and vegetables have decomposed in the fields, quickly followed by fruit and vegetable prices skyrocketing and that the national obesity problem has been caused by lack of…
Therese Coffey simply doesn’t have a clue!