Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners, disabled activists, charities and trade unionists calling for an end to benefit sanctions now.

Inclusion London who support over 70 Deaf and Disabled Organisations working across every London borough lead the campaign. They say:

“We are calling for sanctions to be abolished for Deaf and Disabled people as a matter of urgency.  We also recommend that sanctions end for all people.”

“We believe there is ample evidence to show that conditionality and sanctions are counterproductive in moving people towards employment and instead cause debt, hunger and distress and in some cases destitution. These outcomes are particularly acute for Deaf and Disabled people.”

Unite the Union say: “The continued use of benefit sanctions just as the country is entering a period of heavy and sustained job losses is ‘unnecessary and particularly cruel’ and must be stopped.” The trade union held a Universal Discredit campaign day recently.

The Public Law Project has produced advice on benefit sanctions and Covid-19, this is here.

The full text of the letter to Justin Tomlinson, MP – Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions is here:

Dear Justin,

I am writing to you to take action and help us to scrap benefit sanctions once and for all. In Lewisham we do not have a borough wide disability organisation or advocacy service so I am writing to you directly on behalf of people with disabilities in our borough.

Inclusion London wrote a briefing summarising some of the evidence here:

Sanctions during the pandemic are dangerous, cruel and unnecessary. There is no evidence to show sanctions work and plenty of evidence about the negative impact they have on health and wellbeing. It is especially unfair and unjust when we are facing a historic rise in unemployment and a covid job crisis to force people into searching for jobs which currently don’t exist at a time when many will still be facing restrictions.

Many of the people being forced to look for work will come from Disabled and or BAME communities who have already experienced a shocking and disproportionately high number of deaths during the pandemic. The likelihood of dying from Covid-19 amongst these groups is significantly higher than the general population. Disabled people will face an increased risk of exposure to covid-19 if they have to attend jobcentre appointments, travel on public transport or go into a workplace where social distancing and other safety measures have not implemented in full. For Disabled people, including those who are shielding, many workplaces where it is not possible to work from home will pose an extremely high risk.

Mountains of research exist to show that sanctions do not work, and do not benefit public spending. From academic researchers to Parliamentary Committees and All-Party Parliamentary Groups to the National Audit Office, there is ample evidence to show that sanctions do very little to get people into sustainable, long term work. Instead, claimants are often stuck in short term, precarious work and experience profoundly adverse personal, financial, and health outcomes.

Please act now to help address this great injustice.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Lewisham Council

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