Behind the figures: what do today’s sanctions figures mean for disabled people?

New figures out today show the scale of the Government’s new sanctions regime. In total, over 90,000 disabled people have had their benefits suspended for anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 years. Here’s four things you need to know:

How many disabled people do sanctions affect?

Since November 2012, when sanctions were tightened, 90,004 disabled people have had their benefits suspended.

This breaks down as 82,860 disabled people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) – the out-of-work benefit available to everyone – and 7,180 disabled people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is meant to be for those who face the biggest barriers to work.

This means that 1 in 7 of the total number of JSA claimants who’ve been sanctioned are disabled people, and 4 in 5 of the total number of ESA.

How does this compare to previous years?

It’s hard to say exactly, because DWP haven’t published figures specifically for disabled people before last year.

But looking at the figures for those on ESA – the majority of whom are disabled people – we can get a sense of how many more people are being sanctioned under the new regime. The increase is pretty shocking.

Since December 2012 the number of ESA sanctions was 11,400. For the same period in 2011/12, the number of people sanctioned was 5,750. This is an increase of 50%.

Compare this with an 11% increase for JSA sanctions year on year, and it’s clear that the regime change has had an even more dramatic effect for those who face the most barriers to work.

Why are people being sanctioned?

What the stats show is people being sanctioned for things like missing interviews with advisers, or not engaging with the Work Programme, or sending enough job applications.

What they don’t show is the reality for disabled people: interviews with advisers clashing with medical appointments; inaccessible transport; advisers without specialist understanding of conditions and impairments; a lack of jobs with the flexibility disabled people often need.

Do sanctions work?

No. Disabled people face a wide-range of barriers to work. Lack of available jobs, fewer qualifications and even negative attitudes from some employers can make the workplace daunting.

So simply taking away benefits from a disabled person really doesn’t help – as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have repeatedly pointed out. In fact, suspending benefits can make things worse: stats from the Trussell Trust show that increasing use of food banks is linked to the tightening of sanctions.

Instead of simply suspending benefits for no reason, we need a system that actually works for disabled people, that supports them to find a job they want, and that takes seriously the barriers they face.

The toughest Ironman on the planet? Done.

Guest post from Scope fundraiser – and Ironman – Tom Partridge

On 8 September Pembrokeshire played host once again to Ironman Wales. 1,675 athletes from 40 countries took on the strength-sapping course and I was in the group of participants facing the open water sea swim off the coast of Tenby.

Ironman Wales is a 2.4 mile sea swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon all rolled into one. The race has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most gruelling events in the Ironman calendar.

My motivation

Tom's broken shoulder
Tom’s broken shoulder

Ironman had been on my list of things to do for a while. This year I turned 30 and it was time to be good to my word and get on and do it! I figured that while I was putting in the time and training effort, why not raise some money for a great charity, Scope, along the way.

Training was intense, fun, tiring, testing, rewarding, boring, long and at times so brutal. I had to overcome a shoulder injury I’d had earlier in the year. I knew I’d need every bit to help me prepare for the physical and mental challenge of completing the mammoth distance in under 17 hours.

Raising money for Scope was a great motivation and the support and donations that have been generated have been PHENOMENAL. It was an honour to be sponsored, and to give other young people the chance to fulfil their dreams. Not completing was not an option! 

A great day

The swim transition
The swim transition

On the day, it could not have gone better for me. The swimming conditions were great and I felt ready after three days of preparing in Tenby.

The swim is always hectic with 1,600 people fighting in the water for the first lap. You only get into the rhythm on the second lap.

Legging it through town to the swim-to-bike transition was epic. People were cheering and I got high fives off supporters. Seeing my friends and family on the route was ace.

Then my weakest section – the bike ride. But the £400 bike I got from eBay did me proud. Painted in my race colours, we flew past the £5,000 bikes with their punctures and troubles.

My aim with the marathon was to keep going slow and to keep injury free. I went at a comfortable pace, waving to the family on each lap and revelling in the amazing support through town. My last lap was tough, but all the cheering sent me down the finishing straight.

So how well did I do?

Tom at the Ironman Wales finish
Tom at the Ironman Wales finish

I managed to complete the whole course in: 12 hours, 52 minutes and 5 secs. This put me in 489th place overall.

I am over the moon with my times and achievements of the day and also the amount of money I have been able to raise in the process.

I have huge amounts of thanks and praise to give to everyone who donated and supported me in reaching the current total, well in excess of £1,400.

In addition, I have to say a huge thanks to my friends and family for their time and patience during this process (especially Jo and Felix) and of course, the supporters and people of Tenby who made the 8th September one of the greatest days of my life so far!

If it doesn’t already sound tough enough to you, take a look at the coverage of the event to see even the elites struggling with the course.

Tom’s hard work and determination has meant that he has already raised more than his fundraising target and you can still sponsor him. He has been keeping a blog of his training and Ironman experiences, and you can look at all his images from the day on his Facebook page. If you’ve put becoming an Ironman on your list of things to do in 2014, we still have places available.