Sanctions can be fatal
May I offer my own observations in the wake of the article, Sean is left hungry, (WEP October 24).
In Sunday’s Observer, the writer Jack Monroe stated that, in austerity Britain, food is being used as a weapon by the Government. Hunger is being used to coerce and control. Half of food bank users are there as a direct result of benefit sanctions. “Over a two-year period, 2,400 people died within 14 days of being taken off employment and support allowance because they were declared ‘fit to work’ by Atos.”
In Andrew Nowell’s report the DWP is clearly insisting it is right. “Sanctions are a necessary part of the system and they are only used in a small percentage of cases”. The DWP is also of the mind that your subject should be actively looking for work.
The use of proportional analysis –“a small percentage of cases” –by the DWP when the use of absolute data is clearly more appropriate strongly indicates that the faceless DWP spokesman is floundering to make his case.
When 2,400 people have died, that absolute data is key...whether that 2,400 are one per cent or 10 per cent of a larger body of people.
It is also wrong in cases such as the one you featured to strictly interpret the rule book or to adhere to the letter of the law. DWP staff need to be able to use their discretion.
It should be more about art than the crude science of saving money.
Perhaps people such as your subject, who had difficulties using computers and so on, need to have a DWP ‘named nurse’ to guide them through what may appear to be administrative mazes.
Because your subject was baffled by the requirements of the DWP, he “received no money for around seven months”.
In view of what Jack Monroe wrote, I don’t think I am being melodramatic in saying that the DWP could have killed your subject.
Can the DWP be sure that none of the 2,400 dead Monroe referred to were Wiganers?
Finally, what I would like to know is, where does the buck stop? When there has been a fatal outcome, does it land in a minister’s in-tray or is it the case that, for all intents and purposes, nobody cares? Does the successor of Mr Duncan Smith follow his or her usual daily routine? Even if that involves claiming £39 in expenses to cover the cost of the minister’s breakfast?
Coun Michael McLoughlin
Wigan Central Ward
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