THE Tory Government is being urged to suspend benefits sanctions regime as the UK tackles a new height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite pausing sanctions at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tory ministers reinstated them in July. Now job centres remain open and sanctions continue despite people across the UK being told to stay at home. 

Recipients can be sanctioned by the DWP if they believe the person is not actively seeking work or if the individual misses a meeting, among other reasons. The department can reduce or stop your benefits.

READ MORE: DWP: Tories to reduce benefits of NHS staff who accept Scottish £500 payment

Now Neil Gray (below), the SNP’s work and pensions spokesperson, has written to DWP Secretary Therese Coffey urging her to provide clarity to people claiming support across the UK.

“During the last lockdown in spring last year the UK Government rightly suspended conditionality to support both social security recipients and also DWP staff across the UK. However, the latest lockdown has been in place for a week and it is not clear the DWP will be providing the same easements during this indefinite period of lockdown,” he said.

The National:

The MP for Airdrie and Shotts went on to say that libraries where recipients may carry out job searches are shut due to lockdown restrictions.

According to a recent DWP press release, however, he says job centres remain open.

“It would also be unwise from a public health perspective with the faster spreading strain of the virus to continue allowing face to face meetings where they are not absolutely essential or unavoidable,” he added.

Concluding his letter, Gray again called for “urgent clarity” to ensure staff safety and protect social security recipients.

“I find it impossible to see how, given the current economic and health situation, you can justify doing anything else.”

The National:

According to research from the House of Commons Library, the DWP imposed sanctions on nearly 250,000 people receiving Universal Credit, Job Seekers’ Allowance and Employment Support Allowance between April 2019 and March 2020.

“The Tories at Westminster are so out-of-touch with reality that they expect people to live on fresh air,” said Chris Stephens MP, the SNP’s fair work and employment spokesperson.

READ MORE: SNP urges Tories to scrap ‘heartless’ sanctions for welfare claimants

He went on: “The unfair and unwarranted Tory sanctions - which are punishing the poorest members of our society - must come to an end immediately. The SNP has been calling for the entire sanctions regime to be scrapped for years.

“The Tories have proven time and again that following Scotland’s lead and building a social security system based on dignity and respect is not part of their agenda. This is why Scotland must have the full powers of independence – to build a fairer society for all.”