Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The brutality of sanctions

You will probably have read about the tragic case of David Clapson (at least, if you read the Daily Mirror or get your news from the internet).  The story first emerged on the same day that Matthew Oakley published his report into the way that sanctions were working.  Clapson's death was first reported in his local paper, but then was taken up by the Mirror with an uncompromising headline: "Killed by benefits cuts: Starving soldier died 'as result of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reform'."  What made this case so difficult to brush aside was that Clapson couldn't be labelled as a scrounger, even by the most bigoted of right-wingers.  He was a former soldier who had given up work to care for his sick mother and, since her death, was looking for work.  He was sanctioned for missing an appointment.  He was a diabetic, dependent on insulin (which he couldn't take when his electricity was cut off and he couldn't keep it cool).  He died of the consequences of not having the insulin; but there was also no food in his stomach.
The Mirror returned to the story yesterday when David's sister launched a petition for an enquiry into sanctions.  A campaigner for just such a petition is Debbie Abrahams MP, a member of the Work & Pensions select committee.  She thought that Esther McVey had agreed to it at one of the committee's meetings; but I watched that meeting, and felt that McVey had dodged it.  And why would McVey, let alone IDS, agree to such an enquiry?  McVey has lied to the House of Commons (supposedly a serious offence) by stating that sanctions are "only used as a last resort".  Even Matthew Oakley pointed out that that is not true.  And why would they want to investigate the fact that, as the Mirror says, almost a million people apparently deserved punishment by destitution last year?
They know that not enough voters care to make a difference.  Even with the Clapson case there were plenty of people saying that he must have been mentally ill - as if that would make it understandable.  But the ministers also take the view that these are not really people at all.  They inhabit a totally different conceptual universe, one in which the poor are not really human.  And once you've dehumanised someone it is easy to treat him with brutality.
The sanctions regime is brutal.  Every time someone is sanctioned without good reason a crime is being committed.  No, they won't have an enquiry.


  1. Perhaps people are being lulled into a false sense of security. We hear more jobs than ever are being created in the private sector (largely self employed, zero hr., and public sector jobs being outsourced) for example along with a booming economy. Thus a large section of the public will see the average jobseeker as even more 'workshy' if he cannot find a job in these new 'times of plenty'.

    This is where sanctions come in. Cameron was asked a question on benefit sanctions during PMQ's earlier in the year. His response was ''people are sanctioned as a last resort when they refuse to take a job''. Which totally ignores the ridiculous reasons why many sanctions are given out. And ignores the implications of such sanctions on those affected, as highlighted above.

    Many if not most people are but one or two month's paycheques from signing on. They cannot rely on savings as after taking into account food, utilities, transport, taxes, etc. the amount they have to save is virtually nil! So if they ever lose their job, unless they find employment within six weeks or so, they're going to have to face the reality of having to face ever more draconian practices, stringent rules as well as a less caring and bothered public.

  2. Just a pity more people can't protest the unfair sanctions through the court of human rights..

    Sadly people on benefits can't afford representation, especially after our lovely government slashed the spending on legal aid.

  3. "People are sanctioned as a last resort when they refuse to take a job'' - a blatant lie. It is this kind of attitude which explains why the Tories are doing so badly in the polls despite a 'booming economy and strong recovery' ('The Economist'). The British public maybe indifferent to sanctions but they do not believe their lies.

  4. This looks like a useful service for those threatened with a sanction or an unreasonable JSAg

  5. Everything that I’ve read about IDS suggests to me that he is not a good boss. Also, my impression is that Robert Devereux is ineffectual. Therefore, chaos and confusion within both the DWP and the JCP are inevitable.

    I suspect that the lack of good-quality leadership is what has caused the new sanctions regime to be so counter-productively brutal. It is impossible to job-search effectively if one is malnourished, homeless, unwell or whatever else the claimant’s particular problem happens to be. Punishing the claimant for an underlying (but theoretically extraneous) cause that is not his/her fault is never going to work.

  6. I'm just about to read Civil Disobedience by Thoreau for the first time.
    "Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice."

    It's way, way past the stage now for mere moaning. It's time for disabled and unemployed to take to the streets to oppose what is not merely bad government but something truly evil.

    I happen to be a believer and do not doubt that IDS, Cameron, Osborne, Freud will reap what they have sown but that doesn't absolve me from wanting to do whatever I can to oppose government and bring a halt to what they are doing in this world. Doing nothing or moaning isn't an option anymore. May God give us decent person(s) to rally around the flag of righteousness and form an effective resistance that the these devils will fear wherever they go.

  7. Historian,I have completed 4 Weeks MWA at a "Charity" arranged by A4E,through TGB Learning,but initially by Rehab Jobfit (all in it together?) although not a bad thing,what surprised me ? the amount of people that were there,Rathbone,Work Wales and many other groups,over 22 people in a shop no bigger than my living room/diner. What did we the unemployed gain? SFA! It was like a cattle car,bring them in,move them out,there was nothing to do,but you were recommended for a sanction if you were not working..doing what? The "Shop" turned over about £1500 per week..10 people working 40 hours per week? let alone makes no sense...but this "Charity" turns over £7 Million a year,in the 15 Years that they have been around the have helped 442 family's ...aeems that they have helped themselves more than anybody else!

  8. a view from the other side of the globe (Australia)

    Some very good comments.


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".