A woman was left with just £24 each week of her social security to live on after suffering a miscarriage and being sanctioned. She has told the Daily Record how she considered suicide after being left with barely anything to buy food and pay bills.
Lyndsey Turnbull told of her ordeal as the Scottish Government formally launched their new welfare-to-work programmes.
Lyndsey from Midlothian, said: “I wanted to get into work but the whole thing seemed geared up to punish those who wanted to get off benefits.”
She was on approximately £140 a fortnight Employment and Support Allowance when she missed an appointment after having a miscarriage around nine weeks into a pregnancy.
She said: “I was in a bad place and couldn’t talk to anyone about it.”
Lyndsey was sanctioned because was too distressed to disclose the reason for missing the appointment, which is absolutely understandable. However, the punitive sanctions framework does not accommodate people’s circumstances and situations when they may be very vulnerable.
Having to face a stern and unsupportive bureaucrat, whose role is to discipline and punish people who cannot comply with rigid welfare conditionality, to discuss deeply personal and distressing circumstances – and such a traumatic event as miscarriage – is the very last thing anyone needs.
She added: “I went down to £24. I had no food, nothing to pay bills. It was awful.
“I really thought suicide might be the only option – and I wondered how many people would be just like me.”
Fortunately, Lyndsey eventually found someone to talk to at welfare service group Working Links, who helped her to get a second sanction reduced.
She later found a job at a petrol station and she said the new system’s voluntary focus will make it easier for people to get off benefits.
Lyndsey courageously contributed to a group meeting with Scottish National Party (SNP) Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn, to explain the problems she faced with the UK Department for Work and Pension sanctions regime.
Holyrood has no control over major benefits policy. However the new Scottish programmes will be voluntary – with no financial penalties attached – in a bid to get better results.
In other words, they will be genuinely supportive, rather than punitive and mandatory.
Around 4,800 people with disabilities and health conditions will get some help into work, the Daily Record reports.
Employment support is one of the first powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2016, made possible by the Vow of more powers before the independence vote.
Work First Scotland will help 3300 disabled people while Work Able Scotland will focus on 1500 people with long-term health conditions.
The Record revealed last year that the SNP would block any bid by Westminster to impose a sanctions system on the new programmes.
Batul Hassan, 49, who also met Hepburn yesterday, was made redundant after 11 years at a local authority and was helped into work by Remploy.
She has dyslexia, dyspraxia and hearing problems and said her previous employer struggled to understand her needs.
Batul, from Edinburgh, added: “The new system has the potential to be a good thing.
“Two contracts mean people can move at the right pace, not lumped together.”
Hepburn said: “The devolved services will have fairness, dignity and respect at their core.
“We believe people will see them as an opportunity to gain new skills through supportive training and coaching.”
The Conservatives have clearly changed the meaning of words such as “fairness”, “support” and “respect”, in order to persuade the public that their punitive policies are somehow acceptable, and to deny the negative consequences they have on people who need the most support.
They are not acceptable.