Date published: 06 January 2014
A FRANTIC jobseeker has hit out at harsh benefit sanctions after wrongly being told her payments would be stopped for a year - for missing an appointment.
Amy Lindley (20), of Chadderton, lost her job in February and after missing an appointment at the Union Street Jobcentre Plus, the office wrote to confirm sanctions would last a month.
But after the four-week punishment the sanctions were extended to a full year - forcing her to rely on her retired grandparents for support.
After the Chronicle questioned the punishment, the Department for Work and Pensions acknowledged a mistake had been made - but said Amy would still lose 13 weeks worth of benefits.
They said because she missed an appointment in February — just after she became unemployed, when she was unclear about the system - she had already received benefit sanctions of a month. The punishment for a second offence is 13 weeks. Missing a third appointment extends sanctions for a year.
Amy, currently studying for a professional cooking qualification at Salford City College, blasted the draconian punishments.
She was also stunned by the lack of help she received from staff at the centre where staff failed to check details of job applications and were unhelpful in finding work.
She said: “When I first went on benefits I was still getting used to the routine and I thought they would give me a warning. I missed the October appointment because I forgot it was arranged. I get that they need to punish you for not going - but it’s not like I’m not doing anything. I’m on a course and I have been doing work experience and I think it’s too harsh.
“For three strikes a year is just ridiculous. How can you find a job if you are worrying about feeding yourself and your kids and keeping the heating on?
“Luckily I have moved in with my grandparents, they lent me money even though they are pensioners. But not everyone is that lucky.
“All I have wanted since I became unemployed was to find work again. So why is it that the job centre seems to be against me every step of the way?”
Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher has accused the Government of “brutalising the poor” by enforcing the sanctions, saying: “The penalties are wildly harsh, out of all proportion.”
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