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Sanctions wreak havoc on homeless people’s lives

October 09 2013
We ask readers to get in contact with their stories of benefits difficulties

 

Last month we launched our campaign to monitor how changes to the welfare system in Britain were affecting services for rough sleepers and homeless service users. That’s because we really feel our role is to give our readers a platform to speak out on the things that matter.

Do contact us if you are worried, confused or angry about the way changes to benefits are hitting you or your organisation. The roll out of the new Universal Credit begins this month. And we expect to hear more of how services are affected as the cold weather draws in this winter. The Pavement has heard so far from individuals and organisations worried about the practical and emotional impact of changes to welfare.

And an increasing number of advisors feel homeless people are being unfairly sanctioned when they don’t meet the terms and conditions for claiming benefits.

Sanctioning means losing your benefit payments if you don’t visit a Jobcentre Plus or apply for a set number of applications. But losing your benefits – even just for a week – can really hurt.

Sue Roles works at Bournemouth Churches Housing Association down in Dorset. She works with about 40 people, helping them through appeals for to obtain support or to overturn sanctions. In recent weeks she feels her work has trebled – and that the sanctions are harsh and unfair.

One of Sue’s clients had her Jobseekers Allowance sanctioned for more than two weeks because she was requested to undertake four job searches and only managed three. “She lives a really chaotic life,” says Sue. “That’s why she needs this help, needs benefits. She is trying really hard to catch up with her rent - so stopping a payment had a big impact on her life.” Sue managed to get the sanction overturned and the money back paid. But for a significant period of time this increased pressure caused a lot of distress.

Other clients include the Slovakian man, made destitute for six months while his residency test was assessed. The association found him old clothes to wear, let me eat and shower at the shelter. And he’s lucky – the assessment can take up to a year or even more.

The BCHA – like most homeless services – won’t see their clients getting the single Universal Credit in place of a range of benefits they get currently. And Sue expressed relief that this meant the services could still rely on that income to be steady.

But it’s not just about the money. These are people’s lives.

• Contact Rebecca Wearn with your concerns: rebecca@thepavement.org.uk

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