Theresa May’s government has been caught spending millions of pounds to attack people on benefits. And the figures come just days after the UN accused the Tories of creating a “human catastrophe” in the UK, because of its welfare reforms.
Freedom of Information requests (FOI) by The Independent have revealed the lengths the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will go to, to sanction people’s benefits. The Independent found that in 2016 the DWP spent:
- £22m on dealing with people appealing a sanction decision.
- A further £17m fighting sick, disabled and unemployed people in court over its sanction decisions.
It also revealed that the DWP is spending even more this year defending its decisions. The Independent says that the DWP blew £2.06m trying to sanction people between January and March this year; a 77% increase on the same period in 2016.
Benefits wrongly sanctioned
But the figures are even more worrying when compared to the data on just how many wrong sanction decisions the DWP made.
The department’s own figures show that between October 2012 and December 2016 1,815,000 sanctions [pdf p11/13] were given to Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants. But of these people, the DWP wrongly applied a sanction in 356,000 cases [pdf p11/13]. In other words, nearly 20% of all DWP decisions were wrong.
The DWP figures also show [pdf p16] that the median sanction lasted 28 days. So, based on an average ESA rate of £87.63 a week, the 90,000 ESA sanctions the DWP handed out [pdf p12] since December 2012 have saved it £31.5m; less than it spent on defending its decisions in 2016 alone. This figure is backed up by the National Audit Office, which said that sanctions cost the DWP more than they actually save.
A “human catastrophe”
The Independent’s revelations come just days after the UN said the Tories had created a “human catastrophe” in the UK. As The Canary previously reported, on 24 August the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) launched a scathing attack on the Conservative government. Following on from its report in November 2016 which said the Tories had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights, the UNCRPD said:
Evidence before us now and in our inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that [welfare] cut policies [have] led to human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.
A “smoke screen”
The UNCRPD said the government tried to “misrepresent” its record with “unanswered questions”, “misused statistics”, and a “smoke screen of statements”. Also, it said the government had introduced policies and legislation which “fail to implement” disabled people’s rights in “reality”.
It concluded that “time did not allow” it to “provide a long list of examples where UK doesn’t live up to the Convention”. It also said it was “deeply concerned about the lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the conducted inquiry”.
May: shrugging her shoulders
In its November report, the UNCRPD said that the DWP was “disproportionately” hitting people with sanctions; leaving them reliant on support from family or food banks. It is scandalous that, despite the UN’s specific condemnation, the government is still spending millions trying to deprive people of their most basic of entitlements. But what’s more scandalous is that May’s party neither seems to care, nor is willing to act. Even when it has, in the UN’s words, created a “human catastrophe” in the UK.
– Write to your MP, asking them to support the UN findings.
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