Sheffield jobseekers hit by benefits mistake

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith

Vulnerable jobseekers in Sheffield have wrongly had their benefits stopped in the past six months, a new report has claimed.

Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre has published a new report stating it has dealt with individuals with learning difficulties and mental health problems incorrectly having their benefits stopped.

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

Its report said one woman with severe bipolar disorder who had recently been rehoused because of family abuse had her benefits stopped for 12 weeks for allegedly giving up a job voluntarily – despite the fact she has never been in work.

Another case involved a man in his mid-50s with learning disabilities who cannot read or write being sanctioned for not doing ‘enough’ jobseeking, despite him getting regular support from a local job club.

The report also said one man had been sanctioned more than once because his Work Programme provider had sent incorrect information about non-attendance to the Jobcentre.

Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre is now calling for a parliamentary review of sanctions after claiming the current system is actually making it harder for some jobless people to find sustainable employment.

Acting chief executive Clare Lodder said: “The evidence of our clients is that for many the punishment, that is to say ‘the sanction’, is often out of proportion to the offence.

“The knock-on effects of these sanctions can be devastating and, for many, can outweigh the actual sanction itself with Housing Benefit and debt repayments being stopped or disrupted.”

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