On 20 January, The Guardian reported on academic research showing benefit sanctions push people into destitution, not jobs.
The 1.9 million benefit sanctions that were imposed between June 2011 and March 2014, stopping people from receiving jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and the 43% of those sanctioned subsequently ceasing to try to claim the benefit, did reduce the unemployment figures. No surprise there. Massaging unemployment figures is what every government since the 1980s has done.
But only 20% of those who went off benefit said they had found work.
In the words of one of the authors, David Stuckler, people end up “disappearing from view”. He went on to warn that there was a danger of the NHS, food banks and the prison service becoming the support network for those who fall through the increasingly ragged net.
Strange that no other paper covered the story apart from the Morning Star who focused their reporting on the role of the PCS in combatting management sanctions targets, starting with the blood-and-thunder storyline, “PCS demanded a full enquiry”, and ending with an account of the union’s dialogue with the Work and Pensions committee that sounded a bit like a grouchy village fete planning meeting.
So here we have one of the most important stories of the recent past: how the government is applying wildly unfair and fantastic sanctions against millions of people. A story which shows how no-one really knows what is happening to the most vulnerable people in society. And what about people who are clinging on to their entitlement to benefit. How the government is crowing in press releases about it is literally killing people. How Job Centre staff are being bullied into enforcing this disgrace.
But can we read about it or hear about it in the general press? Apparently not. This is our Stifled Story of the Month!