Sanctions will ‘exploit’ jobless

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Members of the Foyle Labour party have warned that the expansion of the government’s work activity scheme, where jobseekers are forced to do a one month unpaid period of ‘activity’ could have a major impact on people already struggling financially here in the city.

Speaking on behalf of the recently established Derry branch of the Labour Party, Executive Member Liam Gallagher warned that changes to the benefit system may lead to exploitation of those out of work through np fault of their own.

Speaking this week, Mr. Gallagher said: “As Derry’s unemployed and welfare claimants face a bleak summer, their employment prospects are dismal with the numbers of those on the local live unemployment register being 97% greater than the current number of actual job vacancies. Figures from depressed regions of the UK are similar. Amazingly the Tory and Liberal Democrat government’s response is to announce the expansion of the mandatory Work Activity Scheme which requires job seekers to do a month’s full time activity to help them back into work. It is estimated that latest funding for this will allow for up to 70.000 additional referrals to the scheme.” Mr. Gallagher continued: “As part of the announcement Minister Grayling outlined a tougher sanctions regime to be introduced later this year. A third failure to accept a placement, “without good cause “, will mean a claimant losing J.S.A. Benefit for three months. A second offence will incur a six months loss of benefit. These measures are a punitive attack on those who have either lost their jobs through no fault of their own or who genuinely cannot get work. It will lead to the exploitation of the unemployed and will not create jobs. It will also punish the dependent children of those who are disallowed benefit.”

He said his party were calling for more practical measures to create economic stability.

“The Labour Party are calling for measures to grow the economy and create employment,” he said.

“We want the reintroduction of regional development aid and assistance as we believe that the local enterprise partnerships are not working. We are also calling for a strategic investment Bank in the U.K. which will ensure access to funding for all and especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.”