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‘Everyone’s struggling’ as Arnold residents speak of concerning Universal Credit sanctions

today2022-06-13 1

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Residents in a town have spoken of their frustration over worrying about Universal Credit (UC) sanctions as the strain of the cost of living crisis continues to take its toll. Data has revealed that the number of people in Nottinghamshire having their benefits sanctioned has more than doubled compared to before the pandemic.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show 1,168 people on (UC) across the area were carrying a sanction in February. That was 3.4% of claimants, and up from 470 (2.0%) in the same month of 2020, pre-pandemic. The cuts were largely halted in the early stages of the pandemic as job centres shut their doors and the Government focused on dealing with soaring demand from new claimants.

However, the number of people across Britain seeing their UC claim reduced started rising again last summer and has now hit record levels. The second-worst hit district in Nottinghamshire was Gedling, where the figure increased from 27 (1.6%) to 87 (3.3%).

Read more: Fears over ‘astronomical’ energy bills in Nottingham ahead of energy price cap rise in October

So NottinghamshireLive headed to Arnold to speak with residents about these recent sanctions – and the impact that the cost of living crisis has had on them. Kelly Prundle, 36, said: “I received Universal Credit when the pandemic first started. I was receiving those benefits for about a year because I do a lot of tutoring which became more difficult during lockdown.

“I wasn’t aware of people being sanctioned and I think that seems a little harsh. Obviously the pandemic is over but, yes, people are still struggling to make ends meet especially at the moment.

“The cost of living crisis is affecting so many people so you’d hope that people would be receiving the benefits that they need but it seems not, no surprise there. To me it seemed like a lot of people were getting back on their feet once lockdown ended but now everyone’s struggling again.”

Dan Purvis, who is 54 and spoke to Nottinghamshire Live in Arnold, said: “I’ve never been on it but I will say that it’s a serious problem by the sounds of it. The cost of living issue has caused problems for me, it’s caused problems for a lot of people.

“But you could see it coming from a mile away what with locking people down, the economy suffered and it was quite obviously a bad decision. And now everybody else has to pay for it, you know.

“It was a disaster and now we’re facing another disaster it just keeps going and it’s a shame it really is. People thought things would just be normal I think when Covid started to disappear but no.”

The area that saw the sharpest rise in UC sanctions in Nottinghamshire was Mansfield where the number quadrupled from 45 to 185. Across Britain, 78,672 UC claimants (3.9%) had a sanction in February, which was well over double the 31,129 (2.4%) recorded two years earlier.

Back to people in Arnold and Malcolm Kemble, 57, said: “I didn’t realise people could be sanctioned but blimey that sounds like a lot. The thing is it isn’t just around here that it’s happening to people it’s all over the country.

“It’s sad and people have been having a rough time for a long time now. You just have to do the best with what you’ve got and carry on.”

Ministers recently announced new rules for some jobseekers on UC meaning they will have to search for jobs outside their chosen field from the fourth week of their claim, instead of after three months, and can be punished for failing to do so. The changes come as labour market shortages cause problems for various industries such as the aviation sector, which has struggled to meet demand from travellers as Covid restrictions ease.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We understand that people are struggling with rising prices which is why we have acted to protect the 8 million most vulnerable British families through at least £1,200 of direct payments this year. Sanction levels are proportionate to our larger pandemic caseload and people are only sanctioned if they fail, without good reason, to meet the conditions they agreed to. Sanctions can quickly be resolved by re-engaging with the Jobcentre and attending the next appointment.”

Written by: thehitnetwork

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