Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News



Moray’s MP Angus Robertson has given his backing to his SNP colleague Mhairi Black MP, who is building cross-party support for her Private Member's Bill that seeks to end unfair benefit sanctions.

The Benefit Claimants Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill 2016-17 was introduced last week and has already won cross-party support from Tory MP Andrew Percy, Labour veteran Dennis Skinner, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, Green MP Caroline Lucas, as well as her fifty four SNP colleagues among others.

The Bill seeks to establish a code of conduct and official procedure for implementing a benefit sanction and seek to end the discrepancies between different sanction regimes - ensuring a fairer system of sanctions for everyone who uses the social security system. This would mean an individual’s circumstances would be taken into account and ensure a set of rules and guidelines must be followed before a sanction can be implemented.

While some Job Centres already have fair and compassionate sanctions regimes that take into account the individual's circumstances and the negative impact that sanctions could have, others implement sanctions with less consideration of the circumstances and consequences. Local MP Mr Robertson says this is a particular concern for vulnerable groups including single parents and the aim of the bill is to bring compassion and consistency to how claimants are dealt with.

Commenting Angus Robertson MP said:

“The bill put forward by SNP MP Mhairi Black is a real opportunity to try and deliver a positive change for those who continue to be affected by DWP sanctions.

“While there has been a drop in the number of people being sanctioned in Moray, it is clear that there is still much work to be done.

“484 people in Moray had sanction decisions against them in 2014/15, which can lead to increased use of foodbanks, as well as huge amounts of stress on those individuals and their families.

"Like many people I believe the current benefit sanctions process can be very impersonal, however, there is no point in this bill being just a protest. Mhairi’s bill is a pragmatic attempt to address a serious issue and, if passed, will help to alleviate the worst excesses of the current process.

“This Bill will introduce a process of assessing a benefit claimant's circumstances before sanctioning them, in the hope that it will reduce this cold practice and make the system fairer for all who use it.”