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York's Citizens Advice Bureau Calls For Urgent Action To Help Jobseekers

Minster FM News Generic

6:32am 30th October 2013

The number of unemployed people going to the York Citizens Advice Bureau for help has tripled in a year.

It's as tough rules mean those looking for jobs are punished if they don't follow the rules exactly.

York and District CAB has called on ministers to urgently rethink how it applies sanctions to jobseekers as the charity’s national figures show a rise of 64% in the number in the number of problems with sanctions compared to this period last year.  From July to September this year, Citizens Advice Bureaux across the country dealt with 3,895 issues with sanctions for Jobseekers Allowance.

In York, staff and volunteers have seen over three times more people about sanctions since last year. Enquiries have risen from 6 during July to September 2012 to 22 in the same 3 month period this year. 

The CAB say that sanctions, starting at a minimum of four weeks, are given to people claiming support, such as Jobseekers Allowance, when they miss an appointment or are thought to be not doing enough to find work. The charity's national Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, says "it's only fair" that people receiving support must do as much as they can to get work, but says that "too often the sanctions regime is excessively harsh and badly implemented". 

The CAB says the sanctioning system was made significantly tougher in 2012, with some claimants now facing the removal of financial support for up to three years, and a minimum of four weeks, while they look for work. The charity today warns that many people have no idea why their support is withdrawn whilst others have been punished for attending a job interview rather than visiting a Jobcentre.  

George Vickers, Chief Officer of York and District CAB said:

"Harsh and badly applied sanctions are one of the big issues facing people in York and the national rise of 64% since last year shows that we are not alone in facing this problem. In the past year we've helped clients deal with this issue which in many cases is making it even harder for them to find work.

"Many families in York are struggling to make ends meet and to face an undeserved and excessive punishment adds insult to injury.  Many people we see in our bureau do not know why they have had their support taken away because of poor communication from the Jobcentre. For many people with difficult health conditions, the requirements imposed by this system are unrealistic and set many people up for a fall. 

"When people looking for work have essential support taken away unfairly, the knock-on effects for their family can be hugely damaging.  Stress, rent arrears and even homelessness can be the result of sanctions, which make the task of finding a job even more insurmountable.  Ministers must urgently look again at how they give support to people trying to get back into work."      

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

"Today we see the appalling human cost of this tough new sanctions regime.  The huge 64% increase in cases since this time last year shows that in too many cases, people working hard to get a job face unnecessary and harmful extra barriers imposed by the Government.  

"It's only fair that people receiving taxpayers' money should be required to do as much as they can to get work but it is overwhelmingly the case that our clients are desperate to get back into employment.  In the current climate, finding work is a huge challenge. People looking for work need strong, targeted support to help them back into employment and in many cases sanctioning them can be harmful and counter-productive.

"Too often the sanctions regime is excessively harsh and badly implemented. Every detail of the support system should be geared towards getting those that can work back into a job.  A minimum four week sanction for even the smallest mistake can move people further and further away from the job market.  It cannot be right that we have a system of support for jobseekers which actually docks their support for attending a job interview. 

“Ministers must urgently address the glaring problems in this system." 

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