Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Universal Credit - Sanctions to return

In March the government announced that the requirement for people receiving universal credit to prove that they are looking for work – which would currently apply to more than 2 million people on the benefit – would be paused for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has now refused to extend the suspension on benefit sanctions beyond June.

 Lifting the ban now threatens to place millions of people in an “untenable situation”.  People who were shielding or suffered from underlying health conditions would face an “uphill struggle” to find suitable work – and may potentially accept jobs that place their health at risk in order to avoid benefit sanctions.

There were also mounting concerns that ongoing disruption to schools and childcare options mean people may need to care for their children during the time they could otherwise spend working or applying for jobs, which could result in them being sanctioned.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, told The Independent that it was “way too soon” to end the suspension of conditionality and sanctions for people claiming universal credit.
“The assumption that people need to be pushed into job search through the threat of reducing their already low income is ridiculous when what they really need is support.” 
Brian Dow, deputy chief executive at Rethink Mental Illness, echoed her concerns, and added, “Given the sharp rise in unemployment and substantial fall in job vacancies, reinstating it would only exacerbate the anxiety and stress of those who have been supported by universal credit during the pandemic, including those managing long term health conditions or a severe mental illness.”

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