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View from the House - MP John Cryer on benefits sanctions

MP John Cryer MP John Cryer

John Cryer, MP for Leyton and Wanstead
Sunday, March 9, 2014
12:00 PM

Since I was elected as your Member of Parliament four years ago, the numbers of cases with which I have been dealing have grown vastly.

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That is partly what happens naturally as a new MP becomes better known, but it’s also because of cuts in public services and rising poverty.

And cases connected clearly to poverty seem to be rocketing in number.

In those cases of benefits sanctions, they have grown with particular rapidity.

And that can be seen on a wider scale.

In the whole of Britain last year, 900,000 (the highest total since 1996) people faced benefits sanctions yet 58 per cent of those claimants had their sanctions overturned on appeal.

Just from my experience locally, the reasons for many sanctions are becoming increasingly bizarre, inexplicable and, in some cases, simply nonsense.

There are media stories to the effect that Benefits Agency offices have targets for the numbers of claimants who should be sanctioned each week or each month.

Nationally, food bank useage is up by 300 per cent and across London it has risen by 400 per cent. One bank which used to deal with 30 people each week is now feeding 1,600.

Many councils are spending some of their hard-pressed funds on helping food banks, even if it is simply with administrative support. Redbridge and Waltham Forest councils have spent £70,000 in the past couple of years.

Apart from the injustice of all this, surely this situation is unsustainable. I hope that social dislocation is not the result, but we simply cannot go on like this.

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