A new online survey is attempting to gauge the effects that benefit sanctions have on benefit claimants and their families.
It is being conducted by the Northumberland Advice Network, and is aimed specifically at those claimants who have seen their benefits cut, whether that is for turning down a job offer or not attending a medical.
The Northumberland Advice Network includes key advice agencies such as Northumberland’s various Citizens Advice Bureaus.
There are CAB staff on the steering committee charged with organising the survey, where they are joined by representatives of Age Concern, the Carers Association, Northumberland County Council and VoiCes, a children and young persons group organisation based in Amble.
It wants to understand how sanctions are affecting people who live in Northumberland.
The Network has devised a survey to explore the effects of the imposition of sanctions on claimants who are deemed to have not met the necessary conditions for claiming benefits.
The Network is also interested in claimants’ experience of making an appeal against the sanction and the methods they used to cope with reduced income.
The survey, which is completely anonymous, is intended purely for completion by people who have been sanctioned.
It is available to complete through Survey Monkey, by clicking https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sancnorthumberland.
Melanie Oxley, Social Policy Officer for NAN, said that it was obvious that sanctions needed investigation.
“It’s been evident to me ever since I took up this post late last year,” she said.
“It was obvious, from talking to people, looking at the statistics and reading reports in the media, that sanctions needed to be looked at.
“We didn’t have a picture of what was going on in Northumberland, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
The survey is ‘live’ now and there are plans for it to run for at least three months.
“We have planned for a July cut-off,” said Oxley, “but we know that these things take time, so we are giving ourselves a bit of leeway.”
She went on: “The results of the survey will be made widely available and publicised properly.
“Hopefully it can be used to address any issues that arise from the analysis of the findings.”