Sanctions protest – taking action on benefits


by Tayeiba Shaa

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Two activists outside the job centre

September 11th saw a pan national day of demonstrations outside key job centres around the cuts in benefits, in particular with regards to ‘sanctioning’. According to the citizen’s advise Bureau benefit sanctions are described as:

“To get Universal Credit, you have to meet certain work-related requirements. These are the things you have to do to prepare for work, find work, get better paid work, or increase your hours, like going to job interviews. If you fail to meet one of these requirements, you can be sanctioned. This means your benefit is reduced for a certain period.”

Benefits, which include Housing Benefits, child tax credits, job seekers allowance and added plethora are what low income families rely on and are supplemented with to help them get through everyday things like food and fuel for themselves and their families.

Outside the Granata House Job Centre in London N22 we found a number of people who had already been sanctioned and then some. We started at about 9 am and stayed until around 3 pm. They had stories to tell and distressing ones. For once, the police were welcome. They were helpful even. Clearly they get to see what sanctioning actually means.

A number of young people, classified as under 25 but some as young as 18, have been left to fend for themselves as a result of sanctioning. Losing housing benefits has meant that especially young people are ending up living on the streets. Losing benefits as result of sanctioning has directly lead to increase use of the food banks and kept families without fuel for heating and cooking, bathing in their own homes.


Arbritary  and cruel

The reasons for sanctioning are unclear. We met a 20 year old man who had just come out of the job centre having been sanctioned that morning for losing his mobile phone and failing to keep an appointment which he could not have known about without it. His explanations clearly fell on deaf ears.

The hassle that it causes, untold trips and effort up to the job centre, to the council for hardship grants that are refused. Speaking for endless hours on the end of phone queues to nobody in particular that is willing to listen and help. Untold hours lost while you need to be taking care of your children, vulnerable adults, teenagers. It’s a terrible mess and why do people have to live in such abject misery and punishment? Is this not the 4th richest nation on the planet? Why the food banks? Is this happening across Europe?

Punitive measures against the poor for being poor are clearly not helping anybody. So why is it happening and more to the point, why are job centres getting away with it? There are no simple or clear cut explanations but this is an attempt to understand what I witnessed on this day.


Unaccountable “public” services

dwp protest 02Let’s make one thing quite clear. Job centres are no longer run by public servants who are as implied, accountable on behalf of the Government Ministry under which they are run. The Wood Green (N22) is run and staffed entirely by G4S, a private security firm, who did get very aggressive with us and two of us had our mobile phone snatched from our hands in an act of aggression.

They are responsible for running a contract on behalf of Government and their only remit is that they should keep the targets that are set under such a contract. No not answerable to the public at all. Does this give them then the authority and permission to behave aggressively, without compassion if they so wish? To the point of breaking their own guidelines and policies that are clearly laid out, or for that matter, the rule of law which applies to us all?

It ‘s worth examining why some job centres remain more aggressive in their ‘tactics’ than others. It’s such a shame because G4S staff are not the best paid and would do themselves a favour for being unionised. They are most of them just above the benefit line. So not far to fall at all.

To continue to answer my original question why such punitive measures against ordinary, mostly working people, who have been employed and are going through transitions in their lives for whatever reason, find themselves at the butt end of the worst behaviour of the established powers?

Well for an economic fact , that lower income families/people have a greater propensity to spend. You may ask if I have no money than how can I spend? True. And that’s the point. In order to balance the books and bang on about inflation, clearly someone needs to be able to spend. It simply cannot be the poor because they are uncontrollable. Only Lord knows where these inflations may go.


One law for the rich

Clearly then, the Government can borrow and can spend. Oh yes, the rich and establishment may do this and unchecked. If they need money they ask a kind banker to print it for them. Aah yes, another reason. If you can print money and spend it, then why do we need taxes? Clearly we don’t. What we need them for is to subsidise up and coming contracts and incentives for the likes of the Clinical Care Groups and G4sS amongst others I’m sure.

So in order to keep inflation and the debt in check you print money, spend at will as long as the poor cannot spend remain in arms length control. Simple really.

We could bang on about complex figures, the Dow Jones and the Stock Exchange but what’s the point? These institutions are working in a virtual world anyway so why bother? We may just as well be playing DOOM.

What is it then, that they will and can achieve? Would it be too insulting to call it a polite genocide? Michael Moore eluded to this in his documentaries that if a nation is ill, vulnerable and unable to fight for itself then there is a means of getting away with it all. Clearly people have died and will die as a result of these policies. It is a way of cleansing the nation of those that the establishment, whoever they are, do not wish to deal with. Lives that are not worth saving.


Watch: live streamed video at Occupy London.

Video: job centre whistle blower.