As we reported at the beginning of July, sanctions against ESA claimants have increased fourfold in the course of a year up to December 2013. Members can download a detailed guide on how to prevent and overturn ESA sanctions from the ESA section of the members area, but we also though it would be useful to read some actual examples of how people get hit by ESA sanctions. We've collected these from a range of online sources.
Please feel free to tell us your sanctions story using the comments feature.
This claimant received a letter to say they had missed an appointment with Seetec . They were advised they did not need to attend due to a clash with an appointment with Mind. Even after explaining this, they are still receiving only £50 a fortnight.
This claimant is on ESA because of mental health issues and was told to attend a work-related activity. They were sanctioned even though their Doctor kept on issuing sick notes to say they were not well enough to attend.
This person called the DWP and was informed that their ESA had been sanctioned because they had declared they had been self-employed for over a year. In fact the discussion was about making jewellery as a hobby.
A 37 year old agoraphobic, unable to get very far from home and some days unable to go out at all was transferred to ESA and placed in the Work-related activity group. The claimant missed a third interview after the second one had not gone so well. That interview was rescheduled but they missed the new one too; due to being unable to attend. They had to explain in advance. Their benefit had been reduced to £47 pounds a fortnight and they did not receive any notification.
A selection of examples of people on ESA being sanctioned can also be found inthis report by the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureaux called “Sanctioned: what benefit?” which was published this month, including:
An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client and partner who came in to enquire about their joint ESA. The client has been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and missed an appointment at Jobcentre Plus (JCP). The client says that she was not notified and normally receives a letter, due to her memory problems. When the client spoke to her JCP adviser, she was told that they didn't write to her, but they told her about her appointment at her last one; therefore, they would be sanctioning her. The client suffers from a number of mental and physical conditions, some of which are the side effect of cancer treatment in the past.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has been awarded the work-related activity component of ESA. He has ME, for which he has a letter from his doctor, saying he is unable to hold down a job. He was unwell last week and could not attend a meeting with the Work Programme provider, and informed them of this. Today he was at the Work Programme provider but was again feeling unwell. He spoke to them and explained, and they said if he went home the Jobcentre would sanction him. He called the CAB, who explained to him that as part of being in the Work-Related Activity Group he had to attend these meetings. The client did not know this and thought they were voluntary. The CAB explained that if he was sanctioned he would have to request a mandatory reconsideration and that he would get no money in this period.
An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who was in receipt of ESA (work group) but had not attended an interview at a Work Programme provider, resulting in sanctions, with his benefit reduced to around £11 per week. This was despite producing a doctor's certificate saying he was not fit to travel as he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the liver and investigations were being currently undertaken on a prognosis as to whether he had 6 to 24 months to live. The client had been confined to bed for the past three days and requested use of a CAB phone to contact ESA to determine his award. The client completed the phone call but received no help from the DWP, merely being given the standard story that he had missed his interview and had been sanctioned. No account was taken of the medical certificate. The impression was given that the DWP adviser was "reading from a script" from which he could not deviate nor offer alternative advice. A food parcel was arranged.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had his ESA sanctioned as he failed to attend a meeting with the Work Programme provider. He is a former member of the armed services and has recently had his medication changed so he can begin to work with his Community Psychiatric Nurse and Combat Stress [a charity], as the client suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is extremely forgetful. On the morning he was due to attend the Work Programme he forgot he had an appointment with his Support Worker to see how he was coping with the changes in his medication. He phoned Working Links and explained the situation which was accepted and a new appointment provided. Despite this the client has been sanctioned. The bureau has assisted him in requesting a mandatory reconsideration and were advised that this could take up to two weeks. However, we are now ten weeks down the line and no decision has been made.
An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has had his ESA sanctioned. He attended his appointment but was left sitting which caused him a lot of pain. When this became too much for him he went to the reception desk and explained what was wrong and that he couldn’t wait. As he had already signed in he says the girl said she would let the person he was seeing know. He then requested another appointment and received a letter with this information. The client attended this appointment and then a few days later his benefit was sanctioned.
Here at Benefits and Work we asked you, in November 2013 what your sanction experiences are and some of you responded:
An ESA claimant in the work-related activity group who suffers from agoraphobia and depression was harassed every two days to attend an interview even though her husband had explained she was too ill to leave the house. The threat to cut her benefit meant that she took an overdose and was hospitalised.
This story relates to someone has been sanctioned even though his illness stops him from being available in the mornings (severe bowel problems and incontinence which are known about). His attendance is insisted upon at these times although he is unable to do so and also has uncontrolled epilepsy.
We have also been told; “I had to leave my abusive job due to my mental health issues and I've been sanctioned 4 weeks! Since this I haven't been able to eat and my anxiety is at an all time high and I have no where to turn! This is wrong!”