Following the news that the Isle of Wight Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has experienced a higher number of enquiries about sanctions on benefits than elsewhere in the country, Andrew Turner, the Island’s MP has tabled a question to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP.
He wants to find out whether the experience of the Island’s CAB is borne out by official Government statistics. Mr Turner revealed that he has also been contacted by Islanders about some ‘deeply worrying’ cases which indicate that the system locally is not operating as it should. The Island’s CAB has revealed they have seen a 120% increase in cases compared to the same period last year – almost double the national rate.
Mr Turner said :
“I have seen a number of worrying cases myself, and there is one particular national supplier of employment and work programmes operating on the Island that has cropped up a number of times. For instance, one lady had a benefit sanction applied for failure to attend a mandatory work placement. The work programme provider claimed to have spoken to somebody who answered her mobile phone to tell her about the placement. However I have seen evidence that suggests the phone had been cut-off because the bill hadn’t been paid on the date they claim to have made the call. That is deeply worrying and I have raised her case directly with Iain Duncan Smith. I also tabled a Parliamentary question yesterday to see if there is a higher percentage of benefit sanctions on the Island than elsewhere in the country.
“If people are not actively trying to find work then they are not entitled to claim Jobseekers Allowance. There must be sanctions for those that abuse the system because benefits are there to provide a safety net, not a lifestyle choice. There is public support for welfare reforms, but that will disappear if sanctions are not applied fairly and consistently.”
Mr Turner encouraged anybody suffering similar problems to contact him and said that he is getting in touch with the CAB to see if the information they have available can help him get to the bottom of the problems.