Letter: The devastating impact of benefit sanctions

This reader has personal experience and believes Government sanctions are driving people to consider taking their own lives.


We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch. The letter writer remains anonymous to protect the identity of her family. Ed

In October 2013, the Job Centre sanctioned my future daughter-in-law for failing to attend an appointment. The sanction went on and on and they kept telling her it would be lifted in December, but in December they extended it to January 2014.

She was receiving a hardship payment, but that didn’t even cover her gas and electric. They stopped paying her rent and she is now over £700 in arrears.

Suicide attempt
My husband and I have been looking after her, as she does have mental health issues due to her Dad dropping dead in front of her last Christmas.

In January they extended the sanction to February.

A couple of weeks ago she tried to take her own life.

Said she’d try again
I then needed to step in. I went with her to the GP where she openly admitted she could not carry on.

When asked if she would try to take her own life again, she sobbed and replied either tablets or I will hang myself.

She is now under the mental health team and has been given a sick note for two months, with the doctor saying that even in two months she will not be fit for work.

Misunderstanding over missed appointment
I went with her to her local Job Centre to hand the sick note in. I asked why she had been sanctioned and was told because she failed to keep an appointment. As I always drive her to the appointment, I knew that she hadn’t actually missed any.

It turns out she had turned up one day and she was only in there a few minutes when she came out and said they have told me I can go home.

When I asked why, she said, “the lady at the front desk said my name was not on the list so I may as well go”.

A few other people were turned away at the same time. She was later put down as a DNA (Did Not Attend).

No apology or explanation
When I explained all this at the job centre, the lady we were speaking to said “Oh, she was looking at the wrong list” – not one sorry nor nothing.

She then gave us a form and said, “Fill that in, you may get the back money or you may not”.

We have had to produce post office statements to the IWC to prove she was on hardship payments to get her bank rent paid.

Fear for her future
Then to cap it all, we did a telephone interview to get sickness benefit and she has received a form to fill in to say she has to attend a face to face interview to see if the doctor’s sick note can be overruled.

I am terrified at what she may do, so she is now being monitored around the clock.

It seems to me that this Government are driving people to take their own lives!

Image: francoforeshock under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 17th March, 2014 10:53am


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2bIS

Filed under: Island-wide, Letter to the Editor

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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38 Comments on "Letter: The devastating impact of benefit sanctions"

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This in incredibly sad to hear. I do hope this young woman gets all the help she needs and isn’t driven to make such tragic decisions again.


We must remember that the troubles inflicted on many vulnerable people in this context are a result of deliberate policy. How dare some huge commercial organisation overrule a doctor’s sick note. More of the like will come and, reader, it may affect you in ways that you cannot foresee

My profound sympathies go to your future Daughter in Law, and a compassion award goes out to you and your husband for taking this poor girl under your wing! Without folk like you I fear the death toll from these outrageous acts of ‘putting the poor and downtrodden in their place’ would be a good deal higher. This tale comes at a very bad time for me,… Read more »

This is disgusting Bombard Turner et al with emails letters etc until something is done

These idiots must be bought to book


Google http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/ATOS/FOI
for an interesting discussion on the subject and DWP’s FOI response.

phil jordan

Can you check the link please….I’m interested in this but getting a ‘page not found’ error message



PJ here is the full link if it escapes the Spam folder OK:



Have comments been disabled on this topic? I have tried twice unsuccessfully to point to a DWP FOI response to an aggrieved claimant.


Three times now! I have found a DWP response to an FOI on a similar case that has some interesting highlights. (But the system seems to reject the comment each time I sent it.)

Sally Perry

Your comment (with link) went into the spam folder. It is now approved and live.


Thanks Sal.

Here is the full link- can you rescue it from the spam folder pls if it arrives there again?



There is a Public Meeting about Austerity by the TUC at 5PM on 24th March at Quay Arts Centre Newport.Where they will discuss this issue and many more.

I know a person, in Ventnor, who had a stroke. He was on disability for years. He can’t walk properly to this day.He can’t even articulate. Yet, they took him off benefit. He lost his benefit and had to appeal and it took months. When they saw him it was obvious he could not work.He accumulated debt and almost lost his home. This man, to this day,… Read more »
Stewart Blackmore
It is a sad fact that these stories and examples are getting more frequent as a direct result of this ConDem government’s harsh austerity measures. It is heart rending that some people, through no fault of their own, are subject to these disgraceful indignities in this day and age. it was not so long ago that David Cameron was telling people on the Somerset levels that ours… Read more »
Vote at the general election?Are you having a laugh? You politicians are all the same… make grandiose promises then stick two fingers to the electorate when elected. I don’t read the Times usually ,only looking as I was trying to find an article about a new cancer drug, and came across an article which to me typifies the political “elites” attitude to us. In essence it said… Read more »
Stewart Blackmore
Mike, I am not a politician – yet- but I certainly hope to be and I can assure you, and others, that I will not be sticking any fingers up to the electorate if I should get elected. Perhaps you’re thinking about the right-wing politician the IOW already has (check his voting record)while you’re being so cynical and it’s true – some politicians do exactly what you… Read more »
Mike R
All governments for the last 30 years have to bear some of the responsibility for this. They are out of touch with reality and live in their ivory towers looking down on anyone who has to turn to the state for help. I used to vote at every election . I now do not, i go along and make an extra box “none of the above”. I… Read more »
Sadly this doesn’t surprise me. A couple of years ago I was claiming benefits for thew first time following a divorce and I’d signed a form to say the benefits agency could pay my rent direct to the housing association. A few months went by when I received a court order stating I was £1000+ in rent arrears. To cut a long story short it transpired the… Read more »

The Victorian fear of the workhouse is here again.

Our erstwhile friend here, Bystander, was trying to tell us all about this a couple of years ago, but sadly he was denigrated for doing so by some posters of the time.

I hope Anonymous has let Andrew Turner know all about his dreadful experience, hopefully face to face.

Housing Benefit should not have been stopped as it is not dependent on being in receipt of benefit but on income. As the daughter was living on only the hardship payment then ask for the HB to be reinstated from the date that it stopped in the interests of natural justice. Anyone that is sanctioned should immediately let HB know that they no have zero, or little,… Read more »
Steve Goodman
Such shameful & increasingly common incompetent & cruel responses to increasing poverty & ill-health in a supposedly civilised, developed, democratic, god-fearing, wealthy nation should never be acceptable. We must do more to make our government aware that this, & other symptoms of such a basic failure to perform such a basic function, is actually costing lives & money. There was a time when a government policy which… Read more »
Jane H
This is so typical of the whole set up. My husband has PTSD…has been unable to work for 10 years, was granted early retirement due to ill health by the Education Dept after their docs said he would never be able to return to any form of work. I must add that I also suffer from anxiety and depression – none of which is eased by having… Read more »

What is the appropriate adjective for the Minister and Government that encourages ATOS (a French service company) to increase its profits by making unilateral decision to cut benefits to the UK poor and needy?


(Perhaps somebody could suggest another adjective for the government’s reliance on another yet private company – C(r)APITA-to do its dirty work in other benefit areas?)


whilst people like this girl are falling through the safety net, we are still getting people that are playing the game and taking our benefits system for every penny they can get out of it. Atos is packing it’s bags up, but what will replace Atos? Clearly we need something that will look after our people that need looking after.

tom hill

im all 4 gov reform and the weeding out ov scroungers but im afraid they are going about this all wrong, hitting the genuine ill and needy and giving FREE money 2 people who just walk in 2 this country, have never contributed and get EVERYTHING handed 2 em on a plate, thats where were goin wrong end ov story,


Want to know the address of 1410 scroungers? Parliament Square London SW1A 0AA

I have a son who is awaiting an outcome for a Pip application which I have been told depends on medical, he has had an Atos medical and is in the support group but for pop he has to have another Atos medical as it is a different kind of payment his application went in last august with no sign of an appt yet! When I spoke… Read more »
Stephen Bunting

The true aim of benefit sanctions is to ensure working-class servitude: can’t have the servants getting uppity on us when we’re gleefully ripping the whole country off, now can we? Put your daughter-in-law’s experiences down as collateral damage and expect more of the same.

Mark L Francis

I have heard the figure of 32 disabled people dying every week as a result of ATOS decisions.
The Nazis called it “Aktion T4” fort he wholesale murder of the disabled.

I wish Mark Chiverton and the rest of the Trades Unions the very best with their Island bus tour and the Unions who are speaking out for people who need a voice. This false “Austerity” is against us not them. There are teachers who have had to pack it in because of stress and Anxiety. A friend of mine had to face the “private doctor” and tick… Read more »
In response to this very sad letter: ‘The devastating impact of benefit sanctions’ I would like to share the following correspondence between myself and Michael Meacher MP. Letter to Michael Meacher MP – 17 January 2013:- Dear Michael Meacher MP Having read with great interest and absolute disbelief the contents of the following email recently sent to me has confirmed my understanding as to why ‘The Coalition… Read more »
On 28 February 2014, a father said the Government’s welfare to work scheme was to blame for leaving his daughter fighting for life in hospital The Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning has issued an “unreserved apology” to the family of Sheila Holt, who was invited to “intensive job-focused activity” despite having been in a coma for the past two months. Today her father, Ken Holt, said… Read more »

Ryde and East Wight Trades Council is asking that the scope of the Anti- Austerity Meeting in Newport, should be made as wide as possible.

We hope that speakers fully address the issues.

Also we hope that the demand from the attendees re-establishes a proper fully functional Anti-Cuts Committee with maximum public participation.


Our hearts go out to the writer of this article and hope that she can recover from this violent attack upon her by the powers that be.

We must do something to reverse these Government and State inspired decisions.


Will the Minister responsible- Penning- resign? Fat chance!

Conall McGee

I have started a petition regarding sanction laws in the UK. What this petition means is that the Job Centre must look at the doubt on the claim BEFORE putting a sanction on you.
Please take the time to sign this petition and show to as many people as you can.
Thank you.


All I can say to that family is to stay strong. If there is any problems at her going into a meeting on her own with out a witness may I suggest asking a “Mckenzie Freind” to attend with her, or sign an affidavit that the Mother-in-law should accompany her due to her medical state and make statements/ask questions on her behalf. Questions I would ask is:… Read more »
We are the parents of a severely disabled man who cannot speak, read or write. We care for his every need. He has recently been “atossed”. All communications between atos/DWP were addressed to us – so they all know of our son’s disabilities. They ought to because he has been thoroughly documented since 1981. We await his call-up to his work assessment interview given the vindictive behaviour… Read more »