After our leafleting campaign we released this to all the local press. It has already appeared in two local papers. We are will be having a further consolidated campaign in the new year, to gather more information over a 2 week period.
Contact: Dunfermline Press
The numbers of people being sanctioned by the Department of Work and Pensions have reached shocking levels claimed a local Fife Group. As part of the national protest against George Osborne’s Autumn statement, members of the People’s Assembly Fife have been out leafleting at Kirkcaldy Job Centre with the purpose of alerting people to the possibility of being sanctioned and letting them know that they have a right to appeal and to apply for hardship payments. However what they found was that more than 50% of those they spoke with had already been sanctioned and some on more than one occasion.
Tom Kirby, a spokesperson for PAAA Fife commented: “We already knew the situation regarding sanctions was having an adverse effect on some people claiming JSA and Employment and Support Allowance. What we weren’t prepared for was the extent of the problem. With over 50% of the people we met who had their benefits stopped and who had not appealed the decision. They seemed resigned to the fact that there was nothing they could do. Their benefits are stopped, sometimes for trifling or unreasonable reasons, like being a few minutes late for an appointment, or in the case of one woman with epilepsy, who could not attend because she was suffering a seizure at the time of her appointment. We want to encourage people to use the powers they have to challenge what is happening to them.”
Our group has created a leaflet, using information from the unions UNITE and PCS, informing benefit claimants what they need to do, if they find themselves sanctioned. Sanctions can last between four weeks and three years. These are rated on a 3 tier low, medium and high levels. In some cases people don’t find out they have been sanctioned until they try to access their money, only to find there is nothing there.
Tom goes on to state, “People in this situation are left all but destitute. They can apply for a hardship payment, a pitiful £30 per week. A sanction will also trigger a halt to housing and council tax benefits unless people inform the council straight away that their benefits have been stopped. Most of the people we spoke to didn’t know that they have to do this. Our worry is that they could find themselves homeless because of mounting rent and council tax arrears, after these other benefits have been withdrawn.”
The People’s Assembly Fife has been going for just over a year and has been set up in conjunction with the Trades Union Council in Fife to work with groups in the community to fight austerity.
Tom went onto to say, “We have only just begun to see the cuts in benefits, tax credits, wages, workers rights and all our public services. It is evidently clear from Mr. Osborne’s autumn statement that there are further significant cuts planned over the next few years. We already have wages and personal income on a continued downward spiral. They are targeting our social security and public services with a plan to reduce them to pre 1948 levels. This needs to be opposed by all.”
We are calling for unity in our fight and campaign against these ongoing austerity measures and cuts. The People’s Assembly will continue this campaign both locally and nationally until the ideology is defeated. Everyone is welcome at our meetings and to take part in our actions.