04 August 2015
People with mental health problems bear the brunt of benefit sanctions in Wales
A shocking new report by a group of Christian churches shows that people with poor mental health are bearing the brunt of one of the Westminster Government's policies aimed at getting people back to work. The Welsh Data Supplement to the report Time to rethink Benefit Sanctions will be launched in the churches' tent at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod on Wednesday 5th August at 1pm. The event will hear the stories of some of those who have suffered from sanctions.
Benefit claimants who fail to keep appointments or fulfil their other conditions can be sanctioned, losing all benefit for periods of weeks or months at a time. The Welsh Data Supplement shows that two-thirds of those sanctioned in Wales are unfit for work because of mental health problems - more than in the rest of the UK. It is likely that the sanctions add to the worry and stress which already cause such difficulty for these people.
In his Preface to the report, Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan says, "The results are shocking: large numbers of people, particularly those judged unfit for work due to mental health problems, are being punished ... by the withholding of their income."
Chair of Synod Cymru of the Methodist Church, Revd Jennifer Hurd, said, "Over a third of those who are told they may be sanctioned in fact find their sanction is cancelled because of a bureaucratic error. But in the meantime, they will have suffered additional unnecessary stress and anxiety, waiting to find out if their support is to be cut off."
Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales, Revd Simon Walkling, said, "This is a shocking report, and confirms what churches find in their work on the ground with Foodbanks, debt counselling services and other projects helping those in need in their communities. That is why our churches have said that in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, it is time to rethink benefit sanctions"
- The report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions was produced in March 2015 by Church Action on Poverty and the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland, in partnership with the Church in Wales.
- The Welsh Data Supplement was published in July 2015 by the same churches. The report and the supplement can be accessed here.
- The Presbyterian Church of Wales General Assembly in July 2015 gave formal endorsement to the report.
- The launch of the Welsh Data Supplement is hosted by the churches' tent at the National Eisteddfod, co-ordinated by Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales. All the churches named above (other than the Church of Scotland) are members of Cytûn.
- The true accounts of those who have suffered benefit sanctions will be told by staff members of Sylfaen from Caernarfon. Details of Sylfaen's work can be found at: www.sylfaencymunedol.org.
- Staff from Sylfaen and church leaders will be available for interview on Wednesday 5th August, both before and after the launch event at 1pm. Please contact Revd Gethin Rhys (07889 858062) to arrange an interview.