Tories deliberately misled public, understating benefit sanctions figures – Greens

Iain Duncan Smith © Stefan Wermuth
The government has deliberately misled the public on the number of welfare claimants who have been stripped of their benefits over the past year, the Green Party claims.

Green Party spokesman Jonathan Bartley called on the government to come clean on the issue, after it emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) handed out 605,592 sanctions to benefits claimants in 2014. 

The Greens accused the government of attempting to whitewash the effects of its benefit sanctions scheme by publishing a monthly ratio that obscures the policy’s real impact on the ground.

While the Tories say only 6 percent of welfare claimants had their benefits withdrawn in 2014, the real figure could be closer to 17 percent.

The revelation has unleashed a firestorm of criticism, with observers accusing the DWP of deliberately deceiving the public.

Bartley said the DWP had a history of misleading the public, particularly with respect to false claims about state welfare. He said the DWP’s portrayal of its benefit sanctions scheme indicates the government “has something to hide.”

Government advisers have demanded a review of the Tories’ benefit sanctions regime, following months of criticism over its devastating impact on the disabled, single parents and ethnic minority children.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises the government on social policies, insists the policy of scrapping claimants’ benefits payments must be stopped.

It warns the measure should not be resumed until “a firm evidence base” has been established for its effectiveness.

Last week, Tory proposals to strip obese or drug-dependent people of state benefits if they reject treatment were criticized by health professionals who warned such a policy could violate medical ethics.

The proposed reforms have been widely discredited on the grounds they are discriminatory and target vulnerable people in an unacceptable way.

In late June, Britain’s Information Commissioner called upon the DWP to publish figures on the deaths of welfare claimants who died within six weeks of having their benefits cut. The figures spanned November 2011 to May 2014.

Disability rights campaigners have repeatedly warned that welfare reforms since 2010 have severely affected society’s most vulnerable people.

Anita Bellows, a member of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), says independent living is a right for all disabled people, enshrined in international law.

Speaking to RT earlier this year, Bellows called for “a human rights approach to welfare” to ensure that claimants are getting the level of benefits required for a decent standard of living.