The Department of Work and Pensions will take no account of the hardship caused by imposing sanctions on claimants and their families – even if the weather prevents them getting to Jobcentres, according to information obtained by Plaid Cymru.
The Party of Wales submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act asking the DWP whether exceptions would be made to its policy of sanctions, which involves suspending benefits, during periods of cold weather or other circumstances.
The DWP confirmed that a decision to sanction claimants was left to the discretion of Jobcentre managers, even during periods of extreme weather that might prevent people attending Jobcentres.
They said “they would not, therefore, take into account the effect of any such sanction on the claimant”.
The DWP’s revelation that cold weather would not effect its policy on sanctions, will be of concern for unemployed people, many of whom rely on public transport.
Earlier in December 2013, the Guardian newspaper reported that a former job centre worker revealed that on one occasion the entire staff at a job centre were warned they would be disciplined unless they increased the number of claimants coming off the register, or raised the number threatened with the loss of their benefit entitlement.
The Party of Wales AM Bethan Jenkins said: “Plaid Cymru’s inquiries suggest that job centre managers are under no obligation to consider the impact or hardship a sanction may cause, nor the circumstances that may have led to a claimant missing an appointment such as very bad weather.
“A person who is sanctioned might lose benefits for several months, often for what might be considered a trivial reason. Indeed, there have been cases where people have been sanctioned for attending job interviews instead of their signing on days.
“People who have been sanctioned often have dependant children. Denying them benefits will inevitably effect the health of their children.
“It is unacceptable that decisions to sanction take no account of the effects on the individual, or their children. The impact of UK government policies can be seen by the demand for foodbanks trippling over the past year.”
* More reporting and comment on benefits from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/benefits
* Plaid Cymru: http://www.plaidcymru.org