On the afternoon of Friday August 3rd 2012 Zacchaeus 2000 Trust paid £50 to a pregnant 19 year-old woman ‘Katie’ * who has been left literally penniless after her local Jobcentre Plus cut off all her Job Seeker’s Allowance for two weeks by way of a sanction.
Despite the fact Katie is obviously pregnant, Jobcentre Plus officials told Katie and her youth support worker on the afternoon of August 3rd they were unable to arrange any crisis loan for her until Monday August 6th, 2012. This would have left Katie without food, gas or electricity for at least two days over the weekend.
Jobcentre Plus also claimed no official was available to re-consider the sanction, which is to be challenged on appeal since it is unclear why it has been imposed. In fact, Z2K believes Katie’s situation is identical with another case of sanctioning in error perpetrated by the same Jobcentre Plus office in May 2009. This was successfully overturned with Z2K support on appeal, with the DWP ultimately paying compensation to the claimant concerned after the Independent Case Examiner awarded compensation.
Disturbingly, two days earlier on August 1st, the same Jobcentre Plus branch also cut off the benefit of another 19 year-old woman for 26 weeks after she did not attend a work interview. She told her youth supporter workers that she had never received the interview notice and Z2K helped draft an appeal. Unfortunately, her youth support workers say they have now lost touch with her.
The news comes just as the High Court has ruled that a sanction imposed on an unemployed man was unlawful and similar cases are likely to follow.
Yet the Government’s current plan is to try and extend sanctions with draft regulations being drawn up for October.
We have been warning since 2009 that such sanctions pose a danger to people in receipt of JSA and that making decisions which leave people literally penniless is both immoral and in many cases unlawful.
In particular, Z2K has stressed repeatedly that these sanctions pose a real danger to pregnant women, and to the unborn. Now we have a clear example where a woman and her unborn baby would have been left for two days with the mother unable to afford food or electricity, but for our intervention. This is a situation caused directly by the sanctioning regime of the DWP.
My fear is now that if this aggressive sanctioning policy continues, it will not be long before incidents resembling the end of The Grapes of Wrath will be occurring on the streets of Britain with the dumping of still-born babies and foetuses by pregnant women who have miscarried.
Alan Murdie LL.B, Barrister