Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group

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A cross section of members of the Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group http://www.gmpag.org/greater-manchester-poverty-action-group-calls-end-unfair-benefits-sanctions/ have recently published an open a letter calling for an end to harsh benefits sanctions.  The group is made up of key charities and public and private sector organisations from across the region, and is dedicated to tackling increasing levels of poverty.  At the public launch event of the group, many delegates highlighted the harshness of benefits sanctions and the negative impact they were having on those living in poverty.Although his letter was also signed by the Archdeacon of Rochdale it was NOT published in the local press or online media

The Letter
We the undersigned call for an end to unfair and unjust benefit sanctions, which are causing increasing levels of poverty, hardship and anxiety to those most in need of support.  The total number of Job Seeker Allowance (JSA) sanctions in the year to 30 September 2013 was 874,850, the highest level since JSA was introduced in 1996.

Within the context of rising food and fuel prices, sanctions are causing people to make decisions over whether they ‘eat or heat’. There is a clear connection between the rising numbers of people using food banks through delays in benefit payments or through punitive sanctions.  They are also causing additional stress and anxiety, and exacerbating mental and physical health conditions.

We also call into question the way in which the scheme is being administered which shows a lack of clear communication as to why decisions are being taken.   A survey by Manchester Citizen’s Advice Bureau[1] found that 40% of those who had been sanctioned had not received a letter informing them of the sanction and almost a quarter did not know why the decision had been taken.  A lack of reliable information leaves people vulnerable to future sanctions. The fact that Ministers have set up an external inquiry into how sanctions are administered and communicated, demonstrates that these issues are of concern.

GMPAG believes it is unfair and unjust to punish the most vulnerable members of our society at a time when they need support the most.

The Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group – There is no “them” and “us” – there is only “us”.
Damian Burton, Director, SmartGreen; Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign, Mike Cribb, Chairman, Quantiv; Ms Chris Bagley, Development Manager, Manchester and North Cheshire Region of the Federation of Small Business,  Neil McInroy, Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies; Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty; Oxfam; Richard Caulfield, Chief Executive, Voluntary Sector North West; Robin Lawler, Chief Executive, Northwards Housing; Social Action and Research Foundation; Steve Connor, Chief Executive Officer, Creative Concern; The Venerable Cherry Van, Archdeacon of Rochdale.

For further information, please contact Neil McInroy from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies on neilmcinroy@cles.org.uk or 0161 236 7036.
http://www.gmpag.org  @GMPovertyAction

Punishing Poverty – Sanctions and their Impacts
Share[1] Punishing Poverty? A review of benefits sanctions and their impacts on clients and their claimants. Manchester CAB Cluster Group, October 2103.

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