Newcastle CAB: Benefit Sanctions driving Newcastle families to payday lenders

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across an article on the Chronicle Live page. The article stated that families in Newcastle Upon Tyne are struggling to live due to sanctions to their Jobseekers’ Allowance claims.Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau claims that there has been a 206% increase in the number of Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) cases in just a year after the Governments rules came in, which sees benefits sanctioned as a punishment for not finding employment.

The Chief Exec of Newcastle CAB stated that “families are being forced into payday loans to cope with benefit delays”. A little research goes a long way and upon researching I found that at least one high street payday lender will not pay out loans to people who are on benefits such as JSA, they will only pay out a loan if the person is on a benefits such as Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Disibility Living Allowance (DLA). 

The Chief Exec then went on to say; “claimants are distracted from job seeking as they focus on putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head”. This made me wonder, if the claimant is on benefits would they then not be getting help with housing costs? You’d think that they would be claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support with them being unable to pay for their housing themselves. But nothing was mentioned in the article about such benefits. 

And then the Chief Exec came out with a right good line; “they’re too busy trying to put food on the table and worrying about debts that they can’t look for a job.” Now this might just be me, but if I was in in that situation the debts and the struggle of finding money to put food on the table would push me into applying for every job possible, so there would be no reason for the benefit to be sanctioned. 

The article also added that 13% of those who are seeking work have had their benefits docked as a punishment for mistakes such as failing to attend an interview. When you sign up to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance, you have to sign a Jobseekers’ Agreement, if you don’t comply with the conditions in the agreement then your benefits will be stopped. Conditions are based on the individual doing all they can to seek work, including, attending interviews. So yes, if you fail to go to an interview then it could be seen as not actively seeking work therefore your benefits will be sanctioned. It’s not rocket science. 

Next thing that made me giggle was the fact that Newcastle CAB stated that “parents struggle to put food on the table”. This annoyed me slightly, so I decided to do a little calculation on entitledto.co.uk. My findings were as follows: 

For a couple claiming JSA, with two kids aged between 10-15 (years), living in a three bedroom house in Newcastle Upon Tyne with the rent of £78.72 a week, they would receive £352.09 a week in benefits. Broken down they get: 

  • £116.06 Child Tax Credits a week
  • £113.70 Jobseekers’ Allowance a week
  • £15.50 Council Tax Support a week
  • £78.72  Housing Benefit a week
  • £34.05 Child Benefit a week

So with a total of £352.09 a week, which is more than some people working full time earn, how are they struggling? Is it not just bad management of finances? I mean yes people may be unemployed due to redundancies etc but surely common sense says that you have to make cut backs on certain things, or in some cases give things up, in order to be able to live within your means until you’re employed again? 

I loved the statement Minister McVey defended the benefit sanctions with: “Sanctions are a deterrent. The vast, vast majority of people don’t get sanctions. When you get Jobseekers’ Allowance- there’s a clue there in the name, Jobseekers- you are paid to make sure you are doing all that you can do to get a job”. Clue is in the name! How fabulous is that statement?! I mean it is so obvious! Give that woman a cookie, seriously she deserves a medal for that statement! 

And not surprisingly, there is thought to be more than £7 million worth of JSA tribunal cases… They have time to appeal in writing but they can’t look for a job? Go figure. 

 

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