The Salvation Army’s letter to The Times on the Government’s independent review of sanctions

published on 24 Jul 2014

Media Statement and Case Study on The Salvation Army’s letter to The Times on the Government’s independent review of sanctions.  

A spokesperson from The Salvation Army said:  

"We have joined with other charities and organisations in signing a letter to The Times in response to the Government's independent review of sanctions.  

"As a Church and charity we work with some of the most vulnerable groups in society including people who are unemployed and people who are homeless. This means we encounter people who have been affected by sanctions on a daily basis.  

“We are pleased that the Government has accepted all of the review's recommendations and have committed to improving communications and processes around sanctions. However, the remit of the review was limited and didn't address all of the current issues people face.   

“We are therefore joining with a range of charities to call on the Government to address the rapid rise in numbers of people being sanctioned, and to consider whether sanctions help people get work, as well as the impact of sanctions on claimants, and their families.   

“We have a number of concerns about sanctions. We are concerned that they are not applied fairly or proportionately. There are numerous cases of individuals being forced into a point of crisis for weeks or months on end for trivial offences such as being late for appointments.   

“Sanctions are also applied to people with real difficulties such as those with mental health issues or those who are homeless. Sanctions can often push these people towards crisis point when they should be overcoming often complex problems.   

“More sanctioning, also means more people seeking support, and help, from charities. In these times of difficulty this puts an even greater strain on the third sector.   

“We spend huge amounts of time and resources mitigating the impact of perverse administrative decisions. This means less time focusing on our real role - helping people towards genuine independence.”   

Sarah’s experience of sanctions:  

Sarah (not her real name), 49, from Nailsea suffers from agoraphobia and various medical conditions including anxiety meaning she hasn’t left the house for more than a year. Due to her agoraphobia Sarah wasn’t able to make initial work programme appointments nor medical assessments for the first year and in February 2013 she was sanctioned – meaning her benefits went down from £150 per week to just £6.23. With three children living at home this left Sarah in a desperate situation and she began engaging with The Salvation Army Rehab Jobfit centre who had contacted her around the same time.  

During the sanction period Sarah was supported by The Salvation Army with food parcels and a range of other support so that rather than attending a centre (which wasn’t possible due to her agoraphobia) the Army would visit her at home. The Army also contacted those who had given the sanction to try and explain her circumstances and why she hadn’t attended appointments. Sarah couldn’t do this herself as due to the sanction she had no mobile phone credit and her landline had been cut off. She also, due to her agoraphobia, wasn’t able to leave the house to go to a food bank, and her gas and electricity was running out.   

Sarah said: “It was really difficult, if it hadn’t been for The Salvation Army’s help I don’t know where I would be. It is awful. How can you live on £6.23 a week? I was going through a really bad time as some of my friends had died. I was in a total panic. I have some heart problems and the situation was making my health problems a lot worse. I had children living with me but they didn’t care. It was a terrifying time but I’m just so thankful for The Salvation Army’s support.”   

Julie Kelford, Principal Job Life Coach at The Salvation Army's Employment Plus schemes in Clevedon and Weston-Super-Mare, said: "I know Sarah tried so hard to force herself to attend an appointment with us but due to her illnesses it was impossible. Her situation is not going to get better overnight but with support and empathy perhaps it will help ease her situation a little instead, as with what happened with the sanction, making her situation worse."