Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Benefits Sanctions

This my speech on the debate on Benefits Sanctions in the General Synod this morning.  Thanks to my colleague Stella Collishaw for drawing attention to the reasarch that I mention:

Thank you chair.

I welcome this debate and thank the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales for bringing it to synod.  It has been a privilege to hear stories from around the country about benefit sanctions and their effects on the most vulnerable.

In Derbyshire we too have found this to be a problematic area.  Research from Rural Action Derbyshire has highlighted this problem in our area too.  That research suggests a welcome drop in the numbers of people being sanctioned in Derbyshire - from a high point of 20% of claimants in some local authorities in May 2013 to a lower, but still quite high level of 7% of all claimants by the end of last year.

This should not be understood as a motion that is critical of the Government's welfare policy.  Far from it.  The motion has been carefully worded and presented.  Indeed, the government's aim of reducing dependency on the welfare system is one to be applauded.  However, the research in Derbyshire shows that this aim is being undermined by the operation of sanctions.  59% of those sanctioned borrowed money to tide them over from family of friends.  Not only does this highlight the vulnerability of those without such supportive networks, but it means that the impact of sanctions lasts far longer than the period of sanction.

Over a quarter of those sanctioned in Derbyshire report that financial difficulties due to the imposition of a sanction last for six months or longer after the period of sanction is over.  Sanctions are not removing dependency, they are perpetuating and increasing dependency.

Synod, we have heard that the way that sanctions are operating is unjust.  It is also a counter-productive system.  Please support this motion.

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