We have been asking for your stories so we can build evidence about how policies in North Somerset impact on you and the clients your work with.
From the feedback we have collected so far, the most frequent and poignant stories concern benefits sanctions. Here are three of those stories to give you a glimpse of the impact benefits sanctions are having on local residents.
Mr B was sanctioned from JSA…
…due to failing to attend the Job Centre for one day. He failed to attend as he had been given bus fare that was calculated on a return journey. However, as the Job Centre required him to attend by 9am, the bus fare wasn’t enough. Mr B explained this reason to the Job Centre for not attending and was told “he should have made it last”.
“The sanction caused my client to be evicted from his home, sleep rough for two weeks which disrupted his prescriptive medicinal needs, caused an increase in declining mental health and led to him trying to commit suicide. The police luckily found him in time and i have been working with him since, trying desperately to seek supported accommodation.”
Miss K was unfairly sanctioned…
… a decision that was successfully appealed after help from her support worker. Miss K had missed her initial appointment with her Work Programme provider, but was told it was OK and rebooked. She attended two more appointments; the Work Programme provider failed to tell the DWP that she had been attending, and she was sanctioned.
“I had £18 a fortnight, which lasted for three weeks (until my appeal was successful) I had to visit the foodbank twice and was given a little food, and some gas and electricity by the Salvation Army…You cannot punish people for things, by taking away all of their income, it’s inhumane.”
Mr H is subject to under-occupation charges…
…because although his son visits at weekends, the child benefit is not paid to Mr H so he is only eligible for housing benefit for a one bedroom property. Mr H has been claiming JSA and struggling to keep up with under-occupation charges because he has more than one bedroom in his home. Mr H is under a Notice of Seeking Possession for rent arrears and has recently been sanctioned for 3 years and so is living on hardship income of £40+ per week. He has no other income. With help from an advisor he has applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment from the council but he has been refused.
“Very stressed and upset by the situation. Health is starting to suffer…living on handouts from friends and family and using food banks…increasing council tax and water debts and will be at serious risk of losing his home if there is no change in his situation.”
We need to continue to collect your stories so we can take them to policy makers and ensure those making the decisions understand how people are affected.