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'Benefit sanction led to me losing my home...'.

Byline: Laura Foad Reporter laura.foad@trinitymirror.com

A CHEF who lost his job has told how losing his benets led him to become homeless.

Philip Lynch is one of an increasing number of Teessiders to have been hit by benet sanctions in recent years.

e 26-year-old became unemployed at the beginning of the year and was told as a result he would be sanctioned.

Losing this money - nearly PS300 a month - meant he was unable to pay the rent on his town centre at and now nds himself living with friends.

Philip said: "I left my job after a dispute, and because it was deemed that I had left of my own free will and it was my fault I was sanctioned for a month.

"I signed on in February and was put on a computer skills course and told to come back two weeks later.

"I didn't realise my appointment was actually a week later so when I missed it, I was sanctioned for another month.

"I was unable to make my rent so lost my at, and now I have to move from friends to friends, as I am eectively homeless.

"If I had not been sanctioned, everything would be good but when I tried to explain why I had missed my appointment, they just kept saying it was my own fault."

" Philip today joined protesters outside Middlesbrough job centre calling for action over bent sanctions.

More than 23,000 sanctions were handed out on Teesside in the two years to last September after a surge caused by Government welfare crackdown.

A sanction - usually a nancial penalty where benets are reduced or withheld - can be applied for a number of reasons, most commonly when the recipient is deemed not to be looking hard enough for work.

Brandishing placards and banners, Unite unions members, local politicians and members of the public were among those demonstrating outside the Corporation Road oce.

Under the Coalition government, the number of people having their unemployment benets docked in the region has more than doubled.

Louise Baldock, who is standing for Labour in Stockton South in May's General Election, said: "I am here today because since the coalition government came into power, they have developed, used and abused a sanction system to punish people without jobs, instead of supporting them.

"Jobcentres, which we traditionally thought of as places where people come for job opportunities, have now become like police stations, where people are ned and punished. I talk to people every day who have been sanctioned and who tell me of the devastating impact it has on them."

" Robbie Faulds, from Unite Commuity union added: "Today we are not targeting the st involved at job centres because we realise that the whole system is set up to sanction people and they are under pressure to hit targets so that they don't lose their jobs.

"ere's one million people a year being sanctioned, and we believe that half of the clients at this Middlesbrough Jobcentre have been sanctioned at some point.

"Unemployed people are portrayed as scroungers and workshy, but in fact what is happening is that people are being sanctioned for being ve minutes late.

"eir money gets stopped and this can be for a period of anywhere between six weeks and six months, but for some people it can be years."

A DWP spokesman said: "Every day Jobcentre Plus advisers work hard to help claimants into work.

"Unemployment is falling and a record number of people are in work. Sanctions are only used as a last resort for the tiny minority who fail to take up the support which is on oer.

"ere are no targets for sanctions, in fact the number of sanctions has gone down over the past year."

Sanction stats STATISTICS from the Department for Work and Pensions show that between October 2012 and September 2014, there were 9,614 sanctions imposed against people claiming jobseeker's allowance in Middlesbrough, up from 4,759 between 2008 and 2010, before welfare reforms were imposed.

A total of 6,169 sanctions were imposed in Redcar and Cleveland in the two years to September 2014 after also almost doubling.

In Stockton, the total was 7,834.

CAPTION(S):

Louise Baldock, prospective parliamentary candidate for |Stockton South was at the protest in Middlesbrough

Unite union members protesting in Middlesbrough over benefit cuts and sanctions.

Philip Lynch has told how losing his benefits led to |him losing his home

190315PROTEST_13 IAN COOPER
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 20, 2015
Words:748
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