James Dearsley, 60, receives a three-month sanction while on the Work Programme
James Dearsley, 60, receives a three-month sanction while on the Work Programme

A vulnerable 60-year-old has been left penniless and dependent on food bank support after his Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was sanctioned at the end of July while on the Work Programme. South-east Londoner James Dearsley received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (below) telling him that he had been sanctioned from July 29 and that his JSA would not be reinstated until October 29. James, who is already in arrears with his council tax, has spent more than three weeks without social security. This withdrawal of money means that he’s already been forced to use Greenwich food bank twice.

He says the local job centre told him he was being sanctioned because on three consecutive occasions he had failed to turn up for his Work Programme appointment with a Seetec job search support club. The letter from the DWP states: “We have decided that you did not comply with the requirements of the scheme to which you have been referred and that you did not have sufficiently good reasons for doing so.”

The letter from the Department for Work and Pensions to James Dearsley concerning his three-month sanction
The letter from the Department for Work and Pensions to James Dearsley concerning his three-month sanction

James, who has health issues, says he was not able to make his July 16 appointment because he was sick. He received a phone call from Seetec and he told them he was ill. He says he was able to attend his next appointment on July 23, and also turned up for his appointment with Seetec on July 30, “but they sent me home because they said I had a sick note and because of that I couldn’t stay there”. He added that later they “said verbally that they were sanctioning me because of three supposed missed appointments”.

He has now submitted an application for a hardship payment – which is an emergency payment at a much lower rate than JSA. He was told last week that it would take seven to 10 days for this to come through. James has also very recently submitted an application for employment and support allowance (ESA).

How does he feel about the three-month sanction and the effect it could also have on his housing? “It’s draconian. I also owe £300 in council tax. If they cut my money off I’ll lose my flat. I’m also totally in the dark over when the ESA will come through. To state the brutal truth, it’s bully boy tactics.” James has submitted a request for a review of the decision to sanction him.

As Polly Toynbee points out in the The Guardian here, “Jobcentre Plus offices have become sanction factories”, with staff under massive pressure to cut people off. She mentions the case this summer of a diabetic former solider, who was “sanctioned into starvation” and who tragically died.

Does anyone in the system responsible for these welfare policies – including setting up a Work Programme described by the Government as “offering personalised support for claimants who need more help looking for and staying in work” – genuinely believe that giving James a three-month sanction that forces him to the food bank will ultimately lead him closer to a job and a more secure and healthy future?

Many thanks to James and to all the food bank clients who are prepared to share their experiences.

24 thoughts on “James is now destitute following a sanction: ‘It’s bully boy tactics’, he says.

  1. My heart goes out to this poor individual what has become of this country when they treat a clearly unfortunate individual in this despicable way. Will main stream press publish this ? Don’t think so gagged by this un-elected shower of criminals. I pray for next May.

  2. with all their roburstly filling out their reports targeting those who dont want it they also get to sanction one how nice or rtu ids and his policys of daming the innocent but then whot about all those mps are they also in it together gas they show no fight back against this vile government policys jeff3

  3. Reblogged this on Political Pip Spit or Swallow its up to You and commented:
    I am absolutely appalled that anyone can be treated this way, there are moments when I really wish I could have a few quiet words with Ian Duncan Smith. He faked his college he was no more at Oxford than I was, well he did stay in the city for a while is that the same thing as going to the world famous university? I don’t think so and nor would I be surprised to find his piousness missed some lessons there, why wouldn’t he he’s missed them everywhere else.

  4. Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    DWP again showing no compassion and understanding. They amaze me what ever they do. Most of the time I wonder is it the individual descion maker, or the DWP as a department morally dysfunctional. I assume and guess both

  5. The few Tory MPs who still have a conscience choose to ignore the problems or to believe the propaganda put out by the kakistocratic coalition; If they say nothing and do not upset their Tory puppet-masters, then even they may gain preferment. Compare that, if you will, to the manner described in “Gulliver’s Travels” by which the Lilliputian cabinet was appointed – from prowess at leaping over sticks or creeping beneath them – and you will surely conclude that there has not been much improvement in the last 288 years.

    The Lib-Dems are hardly any better. For the chance to be able to claim for a century that they were “in government” and the promise of a referendum on the voting system, they cheerfully abandoned nearly all their principles to form a craven coalition with a rabble that was surely opposed to all Liberal (or liberal) values. The public is disgusted with them and, after May 2015, the remaining members of the Parliamentary Lib-Dem Party might be able to share a taxi.

  6. I’ll e-mail that article about James to senior UN officials; please see my letter to High Commissioner Navi Pillay http://twishort.com/AAigc; and, my views on benefit-sanctioning: http://twishort.com/czfgc.

    I strongly recommend that you communicate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in Geneva, about the plight of benefit claimants due to the draconian welfare reforms in Britain. A list of UN Special Rapporteurs (by thematic mandate) can be found here http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Themes.aspx.

    Samuel Miller
    (Montreal, Canada)

  7. The WP? Personalised support? During my 2 year stint and after many requests for silly things such as Training or Educational opportunities,I finally received a response from a person who is a actual Expert,he belongs to all the W2W trade bodies and has spent his life reviewing and fine tuning W2W Programmes. I posed questions to him regarding,what actually helps get the unemployed back into Work? Training,Qualifications or Education? No,his professional opinion was “Fill out as many applications as possible and hope for the best,this seems to work” and all for the bargain price of £5 Billion.

  8. If James has been sanctioned because of missed appointments, but he missed those appointments because he was ill, then the DWP might very well change their decision – eventually, – if he asks them to reconsider. The GL24 leaflet about reconsideration and appeals is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/275347/gl24.pdf. If James has access to the CAB or other advice services he could have a word with them.

    1. Thanks Paul. James is challenging the sanction, you’ll be glad to hear. Your advice on the CAB is good. Unfortunately there’s a problem in that the local CAB expect people to ring up to make an appointment rather than just drop in, and James is no longer able to afford a phone. I intend to contact CAB to ask them about this, as I think a lot of people could be excluded from help because of this. A few of the people I’ve spoken to recently have had to give up their phone contracts.

  9. The benefit he is claiming is for Job seekers if you do not go you do not get any money.
    If i’m ill i do not get paid. If he wishes not to work which he probably hasn’t don’t for 20 years than he will need to learn to live on the money he gets else where. No one !! can claim money that there not entitled to and every one isn’t entitled to everything, intos world everyone believes there entitled to it all well wake up your not. I have no illusions on people suffering in other circumstances but the simple truth is survive within you means. A food bank is more than sufficient same as food stamps if you do not want to work and have not made sure you will be fine he has had 40 years to make sure he would be comfortable if he had worked, he has put himself in that position so its self inflicted.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think James’ situation is much more nuanced than this. He has health issues, which I don’t believe happened overnight. I believe he should have been encouraged to apply for employment and support allowance some considerable time ago. As it happens, he is only applying for this now. He says he only missed one appointment – because he was ill and has a sick note for that. The DWP says he missed three appointments. Because of its decision to sanction he faces some considerable time – up to three months – without any money. He is challenging the sanction, but the challenge takes time – and any hardship payment will take a while to come through and will be at a very low rate. If you were unlucky enough to be in a similar situation you might hope for some of the people around you – including officials – to show compassion? James is definitely an ill man. And he didn’t come across to me as having an overblown sense of ‘entitlement’. In fact I haven’t met anyone at the food bank in the past year like that. Mostly they just want to survive from week to week, feed their kids and be reminded that they are worthwhile people who deserve support. They’re just like the rest of us.

  10. These are typical Jobcentre plus tactics. I worked there for 11years. However, they are right that a sanction can be applied if someone doesn’t attend a programme. The bit I don’t understand is that technically if James had a sick paper that should have covered his absence. As far as I know they cannot impose a sanction if someone is covered by a sick paper. His appeal should be accompanied by a letter from his MP and a copy of his sick paper, and if possible a statement from the person who sent him home with a full explanation, that’s what I would be doing. But the biggest problem by far is now that his rent Council. Tax etc will all have to be adjusted. Good luck James.

  11. A really sharp solicitor could view this quite differently as long as there is proof that could be evidenced that there was a sick paper covering the period of the three appointments.
    They could say that this is now harassment, it has caused hardship, embarrassment, mental pressure and distress and we could be looking at a counter claim for a breach of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, etc They can’t really argue with Article 8.
    Good luck see if he can get Sherrie Blairs firm to do the appeal on a pro bono basis, now that really would be a headline! She is a employment law specialist!

    1. Thanks Chris. James tells me that he missed the first appointment because of illness and that they phoned him up and he told them he was ill. He says he actually turned up for the next two consecutive appointments. He said he was sent home when he turned up for that third appointment, because he had a sick note. I’ll talk to James, but feel that he has to get back on his feet a bit more first and be helped to tackle the most immediate problem. He may then have the energy to do as you suggest, without any legal process causing extra pressure. Your idea re Article 8 is a very interesting one though. In the meantime I’ll suggest he gathers up all his proof. James has had two very practical offers of help already, you’ll be glad to hear – in addition to the food bank. I’ll bring you up to date asap.

  12. If this is the case and the gentlemen above does have proof and was turned down for no good reason than i rescind my earlier comment. I hope if he does he can press them for damages as in stress and other issues to stop this happening in future because it would clearly mean that that office may have not followed there own procedures.

    1. I wonder, do you ever think “There but by the grace of God go I ?”
      Things happen that you have absolutely no control over – I know only too well what it’s like to be dragged down from a good paying job to being on ESA. I went into hospital for a very simple surgery to help me walk on my right foot that much better – 9 months later the leg was amputated due to the surgeon making one hell of a mistake during the surgery, resulting in me having a dead foot for 3 days!
      Am I one of those people who you think should not be entitled to money from the government?
      Just wondering as you seem to refer to James as never have worked (your assumption) – and also that food banks are acceptable in the year 2014!

  13. This is disgusting , I hate to say it but would a person from eu countries. Be subjected to James ordeal no I don’t think so

  14. refuted.org,uk is very good for info on workfare, sanctions, etc. Our fb page also offers lots of support for sick and disabled people suffering under cuts and welfare delays, etc. x

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