Thousands of Sunderland jobseekers have benefits suspended in crackdown

Esther McVey
Esther McVey
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BENEFITS were suspended thousands of times for Wearside jobseekers under new Government rules to deal with people avoiding finding work.

The sanctions were brought in a year ago with the aim of encouraging people to work with Jobcentres, take up help and make it clearer to claimants what is expected in return for their benefits.

Figures from November last year to June show payments were suspended 33,460 times across the North East, with 17,470 of those in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and the remainder in County Durham and the Tees Valley.

On Wearside, a total of 3,720 sanctions were put in place, with 2,150 in Sunderland, 780 in Southwick, 400 in Houghton and 390 in Washington.

Across Durham and East Durham, a total of 2,820 sanctions were put in place, with 1,060 of those in Peterlee, 810 in Durham, 540 in Chester-le-Street and 410 in Seaham.

The number of JSA sanctions for claimants across the whole of Britain stands at 580,000, with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stating they are used as a last resort.

The department says the rules make sanctions more proportionate, with shorter ones for minor offences and tougher ones for repeat offenders.

A jobseeker can lose their benefit for four weeks for a first failure to attend for an adviser interview, and this can go up to a suspension of benefits for three years for a third occasion where they have left a job voluntarily.

Minister for Employment Esther McVey said: “This Government has always been clear that, in return for claiming unemployment benefits, jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work.

“We are ending the something-for-nothing culture.

“People who are in a job know that if they don’t play by the rules, or fail to turn up in the morning, there might be consequences, so it’s only right that people on benefits should have similar responsibilities.

“We always make the rules very clear. It’s only right that there is a penalty if people fail to play by them.”

The Government says there has been a rise in the number of sanctions compared to last year.

Between November last year and June there were 553,000 sanctions, compared with 499,000 between November 2011 and June 2012.

The decision to impose a sanction is taken by an independent decision maker and all have the right to appeal, with hardship payments for those in genuine need.