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Disabled rights campaigners urge government to extend pause on benefit sanctions

Removing people’s benefits during the pandemic will have devastating effects on families and children, Disabled People Against Cuts warn

THE government must extend the suspension of benefits sanctions beyond today to ensure claimants are not thrown into debt, disabled rights campaigners across Britain have urged. 

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has written to MPs, calling on them to put pressure on the government against restoring “the hostile environment for claimants.”

The three-month pause on conditionality and sanctions was brought in by the government at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

But no information has been provided on how they will be restarted, leaving claimants “anxious and uncertain” said DPAC. 

This means that some people may have to restart paying benefit overpayments from next week.

Removing people’s benefits during the pandemic will have devastating effects on families and children, DPAC warned. 

The campaign group said that with the “economy in tatters and unemployment at record levels,” people need social support to see them through this crisis.  

DPAC said it was concerned about the overwhelming evidence of the serious harm benefits sanctions inflict on the most disadvantaged members of society.

Disabled people on jobseeker’s allowance are 26-53 per cent more likely to be sanctioned than non-disabled claimants, according to a report by think tank Demos.

A spokesperson for DPAC said: “It has been shown that conditionality is ineffective in getting disabled people to engage in work-related activity.

“Instead it creates a range of perverse incentives and punishing conditions that are often negative to health.

“The underlying fear instilled by the threat of sanctions means claimants live in a state of constant anxiety. For some claimants this is life-threatening. This does not enable people to engage in work-related activity.”

If the government does not extend the suspension, DPAC is urging members of the public to protest through social media using the hashtags: #EndConditionality #ScrapSanctions #NoMoreBenefitDeaths

In the Commons, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds also called for an immediate extension.

He said: “It is important to recognise that the universal credit they have been processing in this crisis is a significantly different product to usual and, in particular, all sanctions and conditionality have been temporarily suspended.

“That suspension is due to end tomorrow and at a time when unemployment has risen sharply, where vacancies have dropped, when people are shielding and the schools haven’t yet gone back, threatening people with reducing their support if they don’t look for jobs is surely untenable.”

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