Kevin Jobbins, who's living on £7 a fortnight for food, following a benefit sanction
Kevin Jobbins, who’s living on £7 a fortnight for food, following a benefit sanction

How does it feel to be “living” on a budget for food of £3.50 a week? Kevin Jobbins is doing exactly that, but the more you think about it, the less appropriate the concept of  existence or survival seems in this context. To survive  conjures up images of Everest expeditions  – involving a set of risks voluntarily  endured  by explorers who’ve personally opted to challenge their own physical and emotional limitations.

Kevin, on the other hand, came into the Greenwich Foodbank   because  he’s  not  surviving. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to reinstate his benefits following a sanction in April. Kevin is 39, and is  receiving employment and support allowance (ESA). He’s waiting to go into detox treatment for drug and alcohol issues and is also on the waiting list for surgery on his feet for problems  linked to his time as a homeless person. Despite his multiple health issues, he was registered with a Seetec job club.

He was sanctioned for missing an appointment with Seetec. He says he had no option,  as he had to look after his two year old son that day. Since April his benefit rate has plunged from £202 a fortnight to £47.  He says that Seetec have told him the sanction has been lifted, but that the job centre in Woolwich says it hasn’t. His housing benefit was stopped as a result, but has now been restarted. But out of the £47 he has to pay £9 for council tax, £10 as a contribution to rent, £10 for electricity and £10 for gas. So that leaves about £3.50 for food.

The result? “I’m begging for food or nicking stuff. I got caught in Tesco. I’m also paying £10 a fortnight in court fines. This is the first time I’ve had to use a food bank. I’m angry. I don’t think I should have to beg for food.  I should have my money reinstated.  I am literally living hand to mouth.” Kevin, who’s on pain medication, adds: ‘”If I can’t nick a sandwich from Greggs I try to beg a couple of pot noodles.”

Should Kevin have been referred to the Work Programme given the extent of his health and addiction problems, and what help has it been to him? The sanction this ill man had imposed on him for not turning up to an appointment has done nothing other than to push his life further into chaos and undoubtedly towards worse health.

For whose benefit? Mike Sivier at Vox Political has flagged up how much money has been paid to Work Programme providers from when the scheme began until March 31 this year. His post links to  alittleecon, who highlights that since the programme began, 39% of  the money paid to providers – who are mainly private sector organisations – has come from the “attachment fee”. The DWP document publishing the Work Programme costs is here.  For the first year of the programme, the attachment fee was £400, the second year it was £300 and for last year £200. From July, the fee will no longer be paid.

To quote from the alittleecon post: “To date then, on this ‘paid by results programme’, the Government has paid providers £538m (out of a total of £1.372bn) just for taking people on their books and before they have helped a single person into work.” With this payment for doing nothing now ended, will we see Work Programme providers start to walk away?” Alittleecon estimates that around 1.72 million people have been attached to the Work Programme since it began, and the DWP is saying that over the same period there have been 296,000 job outcomes,  “so that means only about 17% (1 in 7) have found work lasting at least six months – not a great return for a spend of £1.4bn, particularly when you think that a lot of these people would have found work anyway”.

This system has let Kevin down badly. Kevin has been told to inform that food bank manager here if the job centre fails to confirm early this week that his benefit has been reinstated. I’ll update on this. Are more and more individuals ending up like him – vulnerable sick people sanctioned while on the Work Programme and effectively left to starve and steal to stay alive – begging on the streets for pot noodles?

Thanks to Kevin and the many people who use the food bank who’ve decided to speak to me.



11 thoughts on “Kevin sanctioned on Work Programme and now begging for food

  1. Reblogged this on imatigerrr and commented:
    Government callous sanctioning forcing people destitute and into begging stealing or Wonga-style borrowing from loan sharks to stay alive, what next, a despicable situation and forced ‘criminality’. modern form of peasants stealing bread to stay alive or poaching on rich landowners land in medieval days. Poverty, hunger, malnutrition, a careless big society!

  2. I get £20 per week its nearly three times as much but little better, not allowed housing benefit though not allow council tax benefit so live with mum and dad, they look after me or I’d be on the street, cant’ cope with al that nonsense on the dole, so I live on little trying to get help with equipment in order to find a job let alone work, equipment they say I don’t need.

  3. This government has literally been the death of many thousands, and that’s just the ones that we know about. Many, many people will have slipped through the net or just given up and took their own lives.
    We are no longer a country that cares, we are a country on the brink of a revolution.

  4. The whole business of sanctioning people who have a very reasonable reason for not attending an appointment such as looking after a 2 year-old is criminal. It needs to stop now. You cannot live on this amount and feed a child and keep well.
    There are good examples of small communities being set up and growing their own food and making their own shelters. Looking after and sharing a garden or allotment may keep you fed for a short while but in the winter this would be horrendous.
    I hope things improve very soon. and for you Maria. Sending you lovex

  5. Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Ann McGauran here puts another face to the statistics of the people forced to use food banks, another example of the people hit by this governments savage, punitive attitude to welfare and lies.

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