April 21 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The main reason why people are being forced to use food banks is because of government benefit sanctions, according to a citizens advice bureau in Suffolk.
Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau, based in Stowmarket, helped to write a report for Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils over the impact of major welfare reforms.
Bureau manager Carol Eagles said the biggest problem facing people who came to the organisation for advice is over benefit sanctions, specifically those on job seeker’s allowance.
She said claimants can see their benefits reduced or stopped for up to three years if they repeatedly failed to turn up for interviews or are judged to be applying for too few jobs.
“This is causing a vicious circle of financial hardship for individuals as the more times they receive a sanction the longer the sanction lasts,” she said.
“We are doing everything we can to help our clients, we are assisting them with their hardship fund applications, providing budgeting advice and seeking other sources of help.
“We are very concerned that with cold weather approaching people will not have enough money to heat their homes. Residents are going to be forced to make decisions on whether they prioritise food, heating or housing costs; we therefore expect to see a continued increase in requests for help and advice.”
The most common reason nationally for a job seeker’s allowance claim being sanctioned is because the person failed to actively look for work.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “It’s only right that people should do everything they can to find work if they want to claim jobseeker’s allowance. We make it clear to people at the start of their claim what the rules are and that they risk losing their benefits if they don’t play by them. Sanctions are only used as a last resort and people who are in genuine need can apply for hardship payments. If someone disagrees with a decision made on their claim they can appeal.”