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MPs call for benefit sanctions review


A group of MPs have claimed that benefit sanctions are unfair to benefit claimants, and have called for an independent enquiry into the way sanctions are applied.

This will be the second time that the Work and Pensions Committee has called for an independent enquiry. They believe the sanctions often lead to food poverty and severe financial hardship. The MPs want the report to see if sanctions are being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately. There is concern that hardship payments, which are available to people who are in severe financial hardship, and only available to claim after 15 days of sanctions.

More than six million people have had their benefits stopped since April 2000. Anyone claiming Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance can have their payments stopped for up to four weeks if they commit a first offence, such as not turning up to a job interview. The homeless charity, Crisis, has found that there is a postcode lottery in the UK determining the way sanctions are applied across the UK.

Dame Anne Begg, the chair of the committee, said:
"No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero when they are at risk of severe financial hardship, to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.
"It is not reasonable to expect people to live without any source of income for two weeks."

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