Sanctioned homeless and mentally ill benefit claimants will be able to receive hardship payments in Redbridge
PUBLISHED: 15:34 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:53 21 November 2016
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Those experiencing mental health problems or homelessness in the borough will be able to access hardship payments immediately after a benefit sanction.
Work and pension secretary Damian Green announced the change, and individuals who are sanctioned but meet “certain criteria”, will have a safety net to cover “day-to-day living”.
Sonia Lynch, Welcome Centre manager, said that as a charity which supports the homeless and vulnerable, she welcomes the change.
“This will benefit the people of Redbridge, especially those who are homeless and have mental health conditions,” she said.
“They are already very vulnerable and become more so [with sanctions], with no other means to survive.
“We see first-hand how benefit sanctions can detriment the vulnerable.”
Jon Abrams, of Redbridge Concern for Mental Health and Redbridge Disability Consortium, said he is encouraged by the announcement, but also questioned the need for sanctions.
“It will be good for residents who experience mental health problems and homelessness to have immediate access to hardship payments should they need it,” he told the Recorder.
“Research suggests sanctions may be driving people off benefits but they are not driving people with lived experience of mental health problems into work.
“Research also suggests more disabled people and people with mental health problems are making use of food banks, loans and having to make hard choices over whether to eat or pay a fuel bill. In fact, for many disabled people and people with mental health problems, the barriers to workforce participation are often discrimination and prejudice in the labour market, inaccessible buildings and transport and the failure of many employers to make reasonable adjustments.”
The Redbridge Equalities and Community Council (RECC) has welcomed the news, but described the sanction regime as a “destructive form of punishment”.
Spokeswoman Diana Neslen said: “While we welcome the immediate provision of hardship payments to job seekers who are sanctioned, we wish to make it quite clear that the sanctions regime, far from being a necessity, is a destructive form of punishment.
“The evidence shows conclusively that advice and support are far more constructive in sustaining claimants, maintaining their mental health and easing them into employment.”
The changes will be introduced in January 2017 and Mr Green said although the majority of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance do what is expected of them, sanctions are a necessary and long-standing part of the welfare system.
He added: “They ensure those who are able to get into the workplace are making every effort to get into the workplace, and that appropriate action is taken otherwise.”
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