A Department for Work and Pensions whistleblower has told how mean-spirited bosses have demanded staff focus solely on handing out benefit sanctions over Christmas rather than sorting out appeals.
Hundreds of staff at the Northgate DWP centre in Glasgow have allegedly been asked to only give out sanctions until January 9th and not to process mandatory reconsiderations – where a claimant has asked for a decision, such as a sanction, to be looked at again – until next year. .
Anne McLaughlin MP, whose constituency of Glasgow North includes the centre, has asked Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green to explain the reasoning behind the cruel guidance and called for all benefit sanctions to be halted at Christmas time.
Anne McLaughlin MP said: “I have never heard anything so mean-spirited in my life and I am absolutely gobsmacked by the callousness of the directions being given to DWP staff just before Christmas.
“Nobody should have to endure the misery of having their benefits stopped at Christmas let alone face an increase in the likelihood of a sanction.
“For someone struggling to make ends meet, Christmas is always going to be a difficult time with lots of added financial pressure such as presents, festive activities and food but if a person is sanctioned in December they will be left with absolutely nothing – unless they can face going to the local foodbank.
“For someone to have their benefits stripped from them is bad enough but at this time of year it is truly wicked – they won’t be able to take their kids to see the Christmas lights because they won’t have the bus fare.
“There won’t be any chance of going to a local panto, often costing as little as £2, because if you’re sanctioned over Christmas even that will be a significant cost.
“It also means those constituents who are confident their sanction will be overturned and who are banking on getting that before Christmas are waiting in vain – even though mandatory reconsideration decisions are supposed to be made within ten days of the complaint.
“That the only mandatory reconsiderations being looked at between now and January 9th are the cases where a local MP gets involved is shameful – every appeal should be treated with the same respect.
“I urge anyone who is concerned about their appeal being processed to urgently get in contact with my office and I will contact the DWP on their behalf.
“Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green must explain exactly why this appalling guidance is being implemented up and down the country and immediately call a halt to all benefit sanctions at Christmas.”
This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).