SNP MP for Motherwell slams ‘despicable’ welfare sanctions affecting local families

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Local families are being deprived of basic rights as a result of the UK Government’s welfare policy, according to Marion Fellows MP.

The SNP member for Motherwell and Wishaw slammed the Tories’ “despicable” sanctions and called on people affected to respond to a parliamentary inquiry into the system.

Motherwell and Wishaw MP Marion Fellows

Motherwell and Wishaw MP Marion Fellows

Figures from the House of Commons Library this week show that 825 individuals were sanctioned in the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency from October 2016 to October 2017.

Sanctions involve welfare payments being cut or suspended, leaving claimants without financial support for periods of between seven and 1,095 days, depending on circumstances.

The figures also show that 1,490 individuals were sanctioned in the constituency from October 2014 to October 2017 and 56,275 across Scotland during the same period.

But figures reflect the individuals who have been sanctioned and not the number of sanctions, which is expected to be much higher.

Elected representatives and welfare rights groups have been critical of sanctions for being issued for trivial reasons, with some people sanctioned for being five minutes late for an appointment or for evidence justifying non-compliance, like a doctor’s line, not being registered despite being submitted.

The House of Commons’ Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry and Mrs Fellows is calling on all those affected to share their story.

She said: “These figures show just how many local people’s lives have been impacted by the Tories’ despicable sanction regime, with families being deprived of essential support, often through no fault of their own.

“We as a society are able to look after all in our communities and it is unacceptable that people are being denied the most basic rights and are forced to use foodbanks.

“Simply put, sanctions are an attack on our community and the most vulnerable in it.

“I have assisted many people in overturning their sanctions. It is apparent that the system is deliberately designed to trip people up, to penalise them, with some reasons being unbelievably trivial.”

The MP urged those affected by sanctions to contact her office, Welfare Rights and CAB and to contribute to the Select Committee inquiry.

A Department for Work & Pensions spokesman said: “We’re committed to ensuring that people get what they’re entitled to receive in benefits. But it is reasonable that people have to meet certain requirements in return for payments. Sanctions are only used in a small minority of cases when people don’t have a good reason for not doing what they agreed to do.”