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Home  >  News  >  Churches Call for Benefit Sanctions Rethink


Churches Call for Benefit Sanctions Rethink

Monday March 2

A new report from a coalition of British churches, including the Church of Scotland, has called for an urgent rethink of the benefit sanctions system.

Benefit sanctions is the suspension of benefits payments to people who fail to follow detailed instructions related to finding work.

The report, ‘Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions’, reveals that over 100,000 children in the UK – 6,500 in Scotland – were affected by sanctions in 2013-14. It also states that over 100 people who have been assessed as unfit for work due to mental health problems are sanctioned every day; and that the number of weeks of sanctions imposed has gone up from 1-1.5 million a year between 2000 and 2010 to almost 7 million weeks in the year 2013-14.

It states: “Sanctions have a financial impact on individuals, but the personal costs of shame, demoralisation and destruction of self worth are much harder to measure. This is a system that leaves many people feeling under suspicion and valueless simply because they do not currently have work.”

The report has been produced by Church Action on Poverty, the Churches of England and Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches and the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

The Convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council, the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, said: "As a society we need to face up to the reality of this situation and think: is this really what we want to happen? Where those whose lives are already fragile to be made harder. It isn't right that punishment rather support is what we offer to families or people with mental health problems who can't find work. That's why today we're calling for a full and independent review of the sanctions regime."

The Churches are also recommending urgent reform of the hardship payments system to avoid the deliberate imposition of hunger and are urging the Government to suspend all sanctions against families with children and those suffering from mental health problems. Most importantly, they say, there needs to be a change of culture, from one of enforcement and punishment to one of assistance and support.

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