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Reform Magazine | November 29, 2023

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Niall Cooper: No crime, but punishment

Niall Cooper: No crime, but punishment

niall_cooperThe harsh reality of benefit sanctions

Golda worked for a local charity in Manchester until she was laid off in July 2013 due to funding cuts. As a condition of receiving jobseekers allowance, she was asked to apply for eight jobs a week, but always applied for more as she was keen to get back to work. One week, she was unable to fill out her job search on the computer because there were workmen fixing her roof and she had to stay in the house.

The following week, when Golda went to collect her jobseekers allowance she was surprised to find it had been stopped. In common with increasing numbers across the country, she had been “sanctioned”, and without warning: “Usually I’m quite a confident person, but they crush you. I found the experience at Jobcentre Plus so awful I’d rather starve than go back there again. They should properly train people in the jobcentre to treat us like people… That whole attitude that people are scroungers is terrible – there’s just no respect.”

Last year, over one million sanctions were imposed on people like Golda. In fact, more than a fifth of all jobseekers are sanctioned; this means that their benefits were stopped for anything from one to three months – and in a small number of cases, for up to three years…


This is an extract from the April 2015 edition of Reform.

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