A MOTHER was left without cash for four weeks after benefits sanctions were applied because she was 10 minutes late for an appointment, MSPs have been told.
The charity Barnardo’s Scotland said the woman, from Fife, had been delayed because she had to take her young child to the toilet during the journey.
She was unable to purchase fuel cards or feed her childrenMark Ballard, Barnardo’s
It revealed details of the case, which it said was “not an unusual example”, in a submission to MSPs on Holyrood’s welfare reform committee, which is looking at how changes to the benefits system affect women.
The charity is now calling for special provisions to be applied when those with children are sanctioned, so that they can still provide for their family.
With Holyrood due to get some responsibility over welfare as a result of the Smith Commission on further devolution, Mark Ballard, head of policy at Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “New powers over employment support should be used to mitigate some of the worst impacts of sanctions.”
He added: “Sanctions should only be used as a tool of last resort, be subjected to a test of reasonableness and have safeguards built in that ensure that no-one who is the subject of a sanction is left with no money.
“In addition, where sanctions are applied to a claimant with children, provision needs to be made for those children.
“It is not enough to say that benefit sanctions do not impact on children because child benefit is not withheld as part of the sanction. The experience of our services is that this is not the case.”
Mr Ballard said the current “damaging” sanctions regime “penalises the poorest and most vulnerable, and pushes more people into poverty”.
His submission to MSPs revealed: “One woman recently supported by our Fife service was 10 minutes late for an appointment due to an unforeseen event with one of her children (a four-year-old needing the toilet on the way to an appointment), and she was sanctioned.
“The impact of this sanctioning for her well-being and the well-being of her family was devastating.
“She was without money for four weeks and, as a result, she was unable to purchase fuel cards for her gas and electricity meters or feed her children.
“A number of other household bills went unpaid and she had to borrow money from friends and relatives in order to survive.
“This had a long-term effect of putting this woman further into debt and damaging her relationships with people who were previously supportive.
“The woman relied for four weeks on food parcels from food banks in order to feed her children, resulting in them having no fresh food, fruit or vegetables in that time.”
Mr Ballard continued: “This is not an unusual example from our services perspective.
“Women are usually the main carer for children and as such are hit the hardest by these sanctions.
“It is important to recognise that the effects of benefit sanctions go well beyond the period of the sanctions and significantly impact on everyone who lives within the household.
“Children are particularly negatively affected as it can result in an increase in the pressure on parents, which impacts on their ability to meet their children’s social, emotional, physical and educational needs.”