Last year, I was elected as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The oldest select committee in the House of Commons, the PAC was first established in 1861 by the then Chancellor William Gladstone to ensure that public money was spent effectively.
On Monday 12 December, the PAC will be holding an inquiry into benefit sanctions. To receive benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, some claimants must agree to undertake work-related activities aimed at helping them move into work. If you are judged not to be meeting these conditions then sanctions can be applied, such as the temporary suspension of benefit payments.
A recent report by the National Audit Office found that the government is not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits, or how effective they are at getting people back into work. The report also found that the use of benefit sanctions varies substantially by region, and that the Department for Work and Pensions could be doing more to reduce its error rate.
It’s important that our social security system provides support for those in need, whilst making sure that people who can work are supported back into employment. That’s why ahead of next week’s inquiry, I’d like to hear from local people about their experiences of benefit sanctions or how the system can work more effectively for everyone.
If you’d like to share your views on this issue, please get in touch here.
It is already December and many are looking forward to the Christmas holidays. At this time of year, it’s important to think of those who are less fortunate than ourselves, whether in the local community, across the country, or overseas. That's why it's always so touching to see the kindness and generosity of our community. The selflessness of the many people in our local area who are helping those in need really demonstrates the true Christmas spirit. As this is my last column before the holidays begin, I want to take this opportunity to thank them all, and to wish Echo readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
This article was originally published by the Sunderland Echo on 8 December 2016. You can read the online version here.