Benefit Claimants Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 2nd December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mhairi Black Mhairi Black Scottish National Party, Paisley and Renfrewshire South 9:34 am, 2nd December 2016

My hon. Friend has just echoed the arguments that have been made on that point.

I want to move on to the second main part of my Bill. It deals with hardship payments—my hon. Friend Hannah Bardell spoke about them earlier—which I view as the second-biggest problem in the system. Currently, when a sanction has been imposed, a person may be able to get a reduced-rate hardship payment, but such payments are not awarded automatically. A person will need to apply for them. Again, we must remember that we are talking human beings who are often very vulnerable. Whether because of their mental health, their physical health, their financial situation or their caring responsibilities, they are up to their eyeballs in stress already, and when they hear the dreaded word “sanctions”, the situation becomes 10 times worse.

The system is not designed to guarantee that everyone will be listened to. Some people might be lucky enough to be listened to. The system might be fine, as I said at the beginning, in jobcentres that are managing to make this skeleton of a system kind of work, but there is no guarantee that it will be the same for everybody. When an individual hears that they are being referred for—that dreaded word—a sanction, their world often falls apart and they are thrown into utter chaos.