Calls for benefit sanction reform after bid to change rules fails

MP Mhairi Black MP. Picture: Jane Barlow

MP Mhairi Black MP. Picture: Jane Barlow

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Mhairi Black MP has said she will continue to call for reforms to “deeply-flawed and cruel” benefits sanctions after a parliamentary bid to change rules for Job Centre staff was blocked.

The SNP MP’s private member’s bill calling for greater consideration of a benefit claimant’s personal circumstances before issuing sanctions did not get the necessary support from 100 MPs to stop it being ‘talked out’, or filibustered, by a government minister.

During the debate yesterday, Ms Black said claimants face a “postcode lottery” that sees some fall into poverty and hunger. Fellow SNP MP Chris Law compared the sanctions system to Dickensian England.

He said: “The UK Government’s current benefits sanctions, let’s make no mistake, it’s a regime which is brutally draconian and undignified.

“An individual can be sanctioned so heavily they may have nothing left to feed themselves or their family, in effect becoming destitute through state-sponsored starvation.”

Department for Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds said there is a “considered and fair approach” in the benefits system and sanctions are not imposed lightly.

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