A man who needed money until his benefits were sorted was offered a loan of 8p by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). This is Lancashire reported that Carl Poynton ended up in court for shoplifting after the DWP’s decision.
“Nowhere else to turn”
Poynton was released from prison on Christmas Eve with a grant of £46. He applied for benefits. But due to the time taken to process the application, he was left with no money. He applied to the DWP for a loan available to people before their first benefit payment if they’re in “urgent financial need”.
But while Poynton was eligible for such a loan, the computer calculated he was only entitled to 8p. He was then advised to use the foodbank, which was shut.
In the words of his solicitor, Poynton had “nowhere else to turn” and resorted to shoplifting.
Stealing out of desperation
According to a report by the Prison Reform Trust in 2019:
Nearly half of adults (48%) are reconvicted of another offence within one year of release.
Meanwhile, imprisonment rates have grown by 69% in around thirty years – although they’ve fallen slightly in the last two years – and England, Scotland and Wales have the highest imprisonment rate of any country in western Europe.
In 2018, 59,000 people were jailed – 69% for non-violent offences. The report asserts that:
Short prison sentences are less effective than community sentences at reducing reoffending.
Poynton, who was previously jailed for theft, was given a suspended sentence on this occasion.
But even six years ago, charities and police warned that increasing numbers of people were turning to shoplifting out of desperation caused by austerity. This hasn’t changed. And whether it’s shoplifting or begging, UK courts regularly hand out prison sentences to people who are criminalised instead of receiving the help they need and deserve.
Justice? What justice?
We urgently need to stop sending people to prison for the crime of being poor. And we urgently need to ensure that people leaving prison are properly supported.
And we need to take action against the DWP and our reliance on computers to make decisions about people’s lives. No one should be told they qualify for a loan and be offered 8p. It’s no wonder Poynton found himself back in court. This is not justice.
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