Benefit Sanctions Will Hit Homeless Hardest, Scottish Charity Warns

Benefit sanctions and welfare reforms will hit homeless people in Scotland harder than any other group, a Scottish charity has warned.

Homeless Action Scotland say government welfare reforms, and the increased use of benefit sanctions, will ‘undoubtedly’ impact upon local authorities ability to assist homeless people and the charity has urged the Scottish Government to take steps to ensure ‘vulnerable people aren’t disproportionately affected’.

Robert Aldridge, chief executive of Homeless Action Scotland, told Inside Housing:

“The duties on local authorities to assist homeless people will continue regardless of the impact of welfare reform, and there will undoubtedly be pressures on local authorities in Scotland to deal with cases of rent arrears that have arisen as a result of a person’s benefit being reduced.

“We know that the Scottish Government is working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to develop an approach to sanctions in Scotland.

‘We hope that this will lead to consistent mitigation work being taken forward across the country so that vulnerable people are not disproportionately affected.”

Sanctions are applied against benefit claimants for failing to comply with job seeking requirements, not being available for work, failure to attend a jobcentre interview or participate in a training scheme.

The use of sanctions have increased dramatically since the coalition took office in 2010, with some unemployed job seeker’s having their payments docked or stopped completely for weeks or months at a time. In the most severe cases job seeker’s could see their benefits cut for up to three years.

Some unemployed people claim their benefits have been cut for ‘ridiculous’ reasons, such as missing a jobcentre appointment by only a few minutes – as a result of delays to public transport – or being told they haven’t done enough to find work, even though they have presented evidence which shows that they have applied for several jobs without success. Other examples have also been given.

This has led to some charities and other commentators accusing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of being far too ‘punitive’ when sanctioning job seeker’s as figures show 580,000 sanctions were applied against claimants in the UK between June 2012 and June 2013, a 6% increase on the previous year.