While we’re talking austerity, can anyone help with this question on Income Support, conditions and sanctions

Any help on this one appreciated:

On the topic of compliance and Income Support – I’m speaking atm with a woman aged 31 who has a five-year-old and a six-month-old (we met at the South Chadderton foodbank on Monday). She said that she’s been called in every three months to her jobcentre for a “workforce interview” – sounded like some sort of work related activity type interview from her description. She’d been sanctioned (had her benefit total reduced) for missing interviews that she didn’t realise were taking place. She was at the foodbank getting a food parcel and nappies for the baby, because, needless to say, she’d run out of money. She was having social fund repayment money deducted from her benefits as well. Total shambles, to say the least.

My question – how often are people who are in receipt of Income Support with a child under the age of a year now required to attend workforce or work-related activities? Gave this question a google, but I don’t know that I’m further ahead. This woman said she was getting a lot of letters about attending with all kinds of dates on them and calls changing dates, and everything was in the usual mess.

I was also wondering (again) how low the DWP was permitted to cut a benefits income, particularly for people with such young children. Readers of this site will know that I’ve asked the DWP about this before. The woman in this post today and another man who I spoke to at South Chadderton foodbank on Monday both said that they were having money deducted from their benefits for social fund loan repayments that never seemed to get smaller, or end (I hear this a lot – people feel they’re paying social fund loans off for years). They couldn’t afford the deductions. They also said that the DWP had told them they must put any requests for a repayment reduction in writing. Not so long ago, you could call the DWP up to ask the department to reduce loan repayment amounts if people were really struggling. I’ve done that for people myself. Now, in the Oldham neck of the woods at least, people are told they must write in. Good luck with that, etc.

Anyway. I am so glad the great and the good on the political scene have decided that austerity is over. I can only suppose the memo on that hasn’t reached the DWP yet. I’m sure that will happen in good time.

If you can shed any light on any of this, but prefer not to leave a comment below, feel free to drop me a line here.

6 thoughts on “While we’re talking austerity, can anyone help with this question on Income Support, conditions and sanctions

  1. The frequency of work-focussed interviews, which is what it sounds like she’s having to attend, are now at the discretion of her work coach aka personal adviser. See this from CPAG article http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/work-related-activity-lone-parents:

    “Until the introduction of the 2014 regulations, lone parents claiming IS, whose youngest child had reached their first birthday, were required to attend a preordained number of WFIs. Furthermore employment advisers had the discretion to waive the WFI requirement for lone parents altogether.

    The 2014 regulations remove the set timetable for WFIs and give employment advisers discretionary powers to decide the number and frequency of WFIs for each claimant.”

    She should definitely challenge the sanction decision because these things can stack up – initially she simply asks for a mandatory reconsideration (which will almost inevitably be turned down) and then lodge an appeal with HMCTS. If she can get evidence that she was at the foodbank, that could help an appeal. Otherwise, it’s essentially a case of her word about not receiving notice of the appointment and that of her work coach that she was notified – to that end, it’s probably worthwhile asking DWP for evidence of the appointment letter they claim that she was sent.

    Greater Manchester Law Centre might be able to help with the above? http://www.gmlaw.org.uk/

    Best of luck to her.

  2. Cheers Paul – much appreciated.

    I had NO idea there was a discretionary element here. Neither did this young woman, I am sure – she said emphatically that she’d been told she had to come in every three months and that “it had all changed.” People really are just told any old tripe. She also said that she wasn’t aware that she could appeal the decision re: reducing her money. So many people aren’t aware of that still. Does my head in.

    Think Theresa May needs to spend a few afternoons at these foodbanks. Let’s see if she’s actually able to answer any of these questions about conditionality and income reduction.

  3. Sorry i don’t know about this. I didnt know Income support still existed, thought it was replaced by esa. I also am unaware that Austerity has ended, thats news to me, since when? I think Im right in saying, though, that if you get Sanctioned & have young kids you can apply for hardship payments right away, rather than having to wait until halfway thru the 3rd week of the Sanction as i was told.

  4. Pingback: If austerity really is over (ha), everyone must benefit. That includes people we’ve been told to hate. | Kate Belgrave

  5. If she has a child under 1 she has no requirement to attend any mandatory interview. I suspect she has an mustang sanction, has recompiled and a work coach hasn’t sent the right form off for the sanction to be lifted

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