Benefit Sanctions

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th July 2015.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities) 11:30 am, 15th July 2015

If he will make an assessment of the effect of benefit sanctions on (a) levels of poverty and (b) social cohesion in Scotland.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

All evidence shows that work is the best route out of poverty. This Government have taken action to reform the welfare system to support people to come off benefits and get into work.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities)

May I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland for an urgent review, as recommended by Citizens Advice Scotland, of the 323% increase in requests for food parcels in the past four years owing to the main triggers of benefit sanctions and benefit administration?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

I return to the comments I have just made. The best route out of poverty is to increase work incentives and to support employment opportunities—having a job. To do that, we need a Government with a long-term economic plan that secures employment prospects for the country as a whole.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Scottish National Party, Dundee West

Since the question about having a review will not be answered, is it not time that the powers were transferred to the Scottish Parliament to carry out this pressing and urgent review of the increase in the use of food banks in Scotland?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

Welfare powers will, of course, be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, so it will be up to it to use them effectively as it sees fit.

Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I agree with Alison Thewliss, because yesterday I also met Citizens Advice Scotland, which told us that more than 200 people a day were being sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and that 100,000 children were being affected. Will the Minister please answer the question? Why will she not instigate a full review of the sanctions regime, as recommended by the Church of Scotland?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

When it comes to sanctions in particular, individuals are asked to meet reasonable requirements to take into account their circumstances, which is right and proper when people are looking for work and employment. [Interruption.] I see SNP colleagues laughing at the prospect, but we are all about supporting individuals into the employment market. As we have seen, 70% of jobseeker’s allowance recipients say that the system of sanctions and conditionality leads them to engage positively with the support on offer to help them into employment.