VIDEO: Benefit sanctions protest held outside Sheffield job centre

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Campaigners have held a protest against benefit sanctions outside a Sheffield job centre.

Protesters gathered outside the Jobcentre Plus office in Hartshead Square around noon yesterday.

Sanctions demonstrators march from the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

Sanctions demonstrators march from the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

It was part of a National Day of Action, organised by the Unite union.

Campaigners say benefit payments are being stopped for arriving a few minutes later for job centre meetings and missing appointments due to attending funerals.

Unite said more than two million people have had their money stopped in the past two years.

Martin Mayer, Secretary of Sheffield’s Trade Union Council, said: “Benefit sanctions coupled with the draconian way in which disability assessments have cut ill and disabled people off benefits unfairly have caused shocking hardship and poverty in Sheffield and elsewhere.

Sanctions demonstrators march from the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

Sanctions demonstrators march from the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

“Suicides and mental health problems are just some of the terrible outcomes of this policy.”

A report in June by Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre said vulnerable jobseekers in the city were wrongly having their benefits stopped.

It said it had been dealing with individuals with learning difficulties and mental health problems incorrectly being made subject to sanctions.

The organisation dealt with more than 130 people facing problems caused by Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions in the six months between October 2013 and March 2014.

Sanctions demonstrators outside the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

Sanctions demonstrators outside the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said last year that sanctions are designed to encourage people back into work but are only used as a ‘last resort’.

He said: “We are ending the something for nothing culture and supporting those who want to work hard and play by the rules.

“People who are in a job know that if they don’t play by the rules or fail to turn up in the morning, there might be consequences, so it’s only right that people on benefits should have similar responsibilities.

“However, sanctions are used as a last resort.”

Sanctions demonstrators outside the assesment centre on Hartshead Square

Sanctions demonstrators outside the assesment centre on Hartshead Square