Sunday, 16 August 2015

The trouble with benefit sanctions

The Families and Societies report says that it is not surprising that the parents of children with disabilities generally exhibit higher stress levels and poorer mental health than other parents. "When comparing children with developmental disabilities and the general population, Byrne et al. (2010), Guyard et al. (2011), and Rentnick et al. (2007), among others, found this to be true in the case of cerebral palsy. .."

"The presence of a disabled child in the family can increase the physical demands made on the caregiver, increase depression and anxiety, cause a general feeling of exclusion from "normal" life, influence the perception of the individual well -being (emotional contact with other people, social capital, feelings of being rejected and excluded) , and it can also influence physical health... "

"Economic support to families with disabled children needs to be extended because costs for raising a disabled child are three times those of a non-disabled child. (Langerman and Worrall 2005: 1). "

Governments know all of this, of course, which makes the following account of a family in trouble all the more damning.  

The writer of the Poor Side of Life blog recounts the story of a man who was ill advised by the Job Centre and lost his whole family.

One of his three children had cerebral palsy and his partner became more and more stressed over time until eventually she had a nervous breakdown for which she was hospitalised and could not return home. The writer believes that this was a family who was never given the right kind of advice or support when it was needed.

Nevertheless, the man was determined to look after his three children and put in an application for DLA and Carers Allowance but in the following  few weeks he was called into the job centre for a `back to work` interview and told that he must look for work. As the full time carer of a disabled child the information he was given was erroneous but he was not aware of that at the time.

His troubles really began when he was sanctioned over and over again for not trying hard enough to look for work. In desperation he contacted social services and told them he could not care for his children and they were taken into care.

It is appalling that neither the job centre nor social services informed the man that in his circumstances he was not legally obliged to spend time looking for employment and should never have been sanctioned.

"Many of the consequences of having a disabled child are not inevitable and can be counteracted by adequate policy measures. Personal resources and the ability to cope flexibly with problems, together with a favourable environment can prove relevant in providing some feeling of safety and protection. Moreover, the risk and the costs of having a disabled child might be more acceptable to the families if the state were to provide better services and more support to families with disabled children. The promotion of programmes directed at the psychological support of the parents and at improving and managing their emotional resources seem to be a crucial point. "

Parents also need economic security.
"The UK’s statistics watchdog has called on the Department of Work and Pensions to give "objective and impartial" information on benefits sanctions, it has been reported..."

"Employment Minister Priti Patel has defended the department, telling the House of Commons: "The Government intends to publish mortality statistics but before doing so they need to meet the high standards expected of official statistics. Once we have completed that important work we will publish them."

As well as mortality - and the massaged statistics may be produced eventually -  there are all the other negative consequences of benefit sanctions: stressed families, broken relationships, children in care, that we will never hear about.

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