The Observer gives us the tragic tale of benefits sanctions in Britain today. The bastards, the bastards:
Last week, a woman’s sanction letter from the Department for Work and Pensions went viral on Twitter. Danielle John, from Cardiff, simply wrote: “Was told to put this up on Twitter… this was because I had a miscarriage and missed appointment.” These stories are fairly common now. We are used to seeing reports about people being sanctioned because of attending a funeral/cancer treatment/their child being in hospital. But this one struck me in particular because the language was so coldly efficient. Brief to the point of cruelty. I didn’t know it was possible, even in a business letter, to say: “We’re about to ruin your whole life” without a shred of empathy.
The letter, written in February 2017, starts in large font: “You’ll lose some of your payment… This reduction will last 229 days.” Two hundred and 29 days for a single missed appointment. That’s almost 32 weeks of punishment. Or, if you prefer, February until August, with no money at all. When you consider that the harsher punishments for domestic violence introduced in 2018 suggest a sentence towards the upper limit of “a fine to up to 26 weeks’ custody” for common assault, you have to wonder what fantastical, sadistic metric the DWP has used to calculate sanctions.
The only slight problem with this story being that it’s not – how shall we put this? – entirely, wholly and exactly true. And they do in fact link to the tweet itself, telling that full story:
Was told to put this up on Twitter.. this was because I had a miscarriage and missed appointment @AmberRuddHR @BorisJohnson @DWP @Telegraph @GMB @WalesOnline @DailyMirror @UKParliament pic.twitter.com/QPl0CslcO9
— Danielle John (@dannnimj) 3 August 2019
The sanction for not turning up to the meeting was in fact losing a tenner’s worth of benefits for 7 days. £70 for missing the appointment.
Hey, we can regard that as fair or harsh, but it is different.
The other 222 days were because she didn’t actually bother to turn up, or call in and ask for a rescheduling, or, well, actually, do anything at all other than continue to cash the cheques. 222 days of knowing that you’ve screwed up the system and not doing anything about it?
Well, we can regard that as harsh or fair but it is different.
What really annoys is that these people – the journalist complaining that is – aren’t even pretending now. They flaunt the facts in front of us then claim they’re something entirely different. Then, of course, wonder why half the country doesn’t believe a word they say.