The fight for the soul of the welfare state

ben sanction
Unite Community Group says “It’s time to stop the persecution of benefit claimants”

Last Tuesday the 14th April, Unite Community held an event focussed on the subject of benefit sanctions. It saw a coming together of over 20 concerned citizens from our local communities for an evening of guest speakers and audience debate. Wes Hinckes, Labour candidate in the forthcoming elections, reports from the meeting

Wes says “We heard a first-hand account of the cruel application of benefit sanctions and the devastating effects that they can have on any person in our society.

We also heard from a representative from the PCS Union who represent Job Centre Plus staff, detailing their powerlessness in the face of a political will that has converted Job Centre’s into ruthless machines operated solely for the purpose of removing the unemployed from official statistics – at any cost.

We learnt that most benefit sanctions should be appealed against, and that the majority of appeals are in favour of the claimant. So if you have been affected, you should fight.

It’s time to stop the persecution of benefit claimants. 1.8 million people have been sanctioned since Oct 2012, stopping their legally entitled benefits for between 4 weeks and 3 years, often for being just a few minutes late for an appointment.”

Wes Hinckes summed up “Bridgwater & Taunton Unite Community Group regularly meets to discuss local matters and the actions we can take to improve them. They seek to organise, inform and educate through their events. They believe that when we unite we are stronger, and they would like to invite you to get involved.”

To find out more about Unite Community please contact Wes: 07453 507720

For help with benefit sanctions in person

• There is a Unite Community Centre in Sydenham (Bridgwater) which can advise and assist you with any issues you may have in the community. Please contact Helen Jack on 07816 065 823 to find out more.

• Local Citizens Advice Centres are available:

Bridgwater CAB – Royal Clarence House, High Street, BRIDGWATER, Somerset, TA6 3BH – Monday to Friday 10am – 1pm

Citizens Advice Outreach services are available at:

  • Cheddar Baptist Church, Lower North Street, Cheddar – Monday 9.30am – 12.30pm
  • Methodist Church, College Street, Burnham on Sea – Tuesday 9.30am – 12.30pm
  • St Marys Church Centre, St Mary Street, Nether Stowey – Tuesday 1pm – 3pm
  • United Reformed Church, High Street, Cannington – Wednesday 1pm – 4pm
  • Hope Baptist Church, Church Street, Highbridge – Thursday 9.30am – 12.30pm
  • St Marys Church Rooms, North Petherton – 2nd Thursday of each month 12noon – 3pm

For online help with benefit sanctions

• Find out more about your rights concerning benefit sanctions:
• Guides to appealing against your benefit sanction:

Labour Viewpoints

"Trying to put the blame for everything that we don't like on the poorest members of our society is divisive" Siobhan Wilson  (Bridgwater Victoria)
“Trying to put the blame for everything that we don’t like on the poorest members of our society is divisive” Siobhan Wilson (Bridgwater Victoria)

Unite Community members in Bridgwater and Taunton are calling upon all candidates in the forthcoming elections to take a stand against the degrading and punitive system of benefits sanctions which is causing severe stress, and in some cases death, to claimants saying “We want an end to the sanctions system in the next Parliament, and we want local councils to join us in calling for the same”.

We asked some Labour candidates to respond.

Siobhan Wilson (Labour candidate for Bridgwater Victoria) says “Millions of pounds of tax payers money, every year, goes out in housing benefit, to rich property owners, including some Conservative MPs and even the UKIP housing spokesman (who doesn’t seem to mind making money out of immigrants).

Trying to put the blame for everything that we don’t like on the poorest members of our society is divisive and unhelpful apart from also being wrong.’

"This is not a country where people should have to rely on food donations just to live " Diogo Rodrigues (Bridgwater Dunwear)
“This is not a country where people should have to rely on food donations just to live ” Diogo Rodrigues (Bridgwater Dunwear)

‘Labour will try and make a fairer society by trying to ensure that rich individuals and corporations pay their fair share of tax, whilst also raising the minimum wage to help those people who are able to work so that they don’t have to claim so much in benefits to top up salaries that are woefully low. This will also help the taxpayer to stop subsidising large Companies who pay low wages (ie Asda/Walmart and Tesco).”

Diogo Rodrigues (Labour candidate for Bridgwater Dunwear) was at the meeting and added “The current government has for too long penalised people for being underprivileged and out of work rather than do all they can to help these people get back into work and create a better and fairer life for themselves. The benefit sanctions imposed on claimants unfairly push people further into poverty forcing many claimants to rely on food banks to feed themselves and in many cases their children too. This is not a country where people should have to rely on food donations just to live – we should be living in a more equal and fairer society and not one that constantly attacks the poor. This is why I will always stand up for the underprivileged people in our community and fight for the fairer society that we should all be living in. “

” no targets for benefit sanctions” Mick Lerry Labour PPC Bridgwater

Mick Lerry, Labour PPC for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said “Labour will improve employment support for everyone with a Work Programme delivered locally, and specialist support for sick and disabled people. Those aged over 25 and have been unemployed for 2 years will be guaranteed a job they must take or lose their benefits. While there will always be a role for conditions within a benefit system, a Labour Government will ensure that these are implemented fairly, unlike under the Tory – led Government, there will be no targets for benefit sanctions for Jobcentre Plus advisers”.

"Whether you’re a worker with a job or an unemployed worker, you‘re still a worker." Brian Smedley (Bridgwater, Westover)
“Unemployed workers are still workers.” Brian Smedley (Bridgwater, Westover)

Brian Smedley (Labour, Bridgwater Westover) said “There’s two approaches to this subject. First we need to get the Tories out and to do that we have to vote Labour to get rid of this Coalition Government that’s been using sanctions as a political weapon. But the battle doesn’t stop there – whatever Government is in, Claimants and Trades Unionists need to work together to keep up the fight for the rights of everyone on benefits and everyone facing benefits, encouraging people to appeal and forcing any future Government not to ‘stigmatise by sanction‘ but instead build a society working towards full, useful and rewarding employment and not forced Labour, poverty wages and food handouts replacing a welfare state. The main message I took from this meeting is that claimants and Job Centre workers are on the same side. Whether you’re a worker with a job or an unemployed worker, you‘re still a worker.“


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