Oldham’s Labour MP Debbie Abrahams has renewed her calls for a full review of Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘draconian’ social security sanctions.
Mrs Abrahams said it ‘beggars belief’ that Prime Minister David Cameron continues to back Mr Duncan Smith’s ‘inhumane’ sanctions despite a ‘mountain of evidence’ that vulnerable people are suffering and dying.
Mr Cameron’s support of the current system – one the Manchester MP says is ‘deliberately created to skew unemployment figures’ – continues even when Mr Duncan Smith has lost the backing of his own advisers.
Official advisers to the work and pensions secretary requested a robust review of the government sanctions regime amid concerns that it is failing to help unemployed claimants.
Mrs Abrahams said: “It seems only Iain Duncan Smith is left believing that his draconian social security sanctions regime is fit for purpose.
“Only he seems to believe that unfair and inappropriate use of sanctions on vulnerable social security claimants is acceptable.”
The independent social security advisory committee says the policy of stopping claimants’ welfare payments for alleged breaches of benefit rules should be put on hold until ‘a firm evidence base’ has been established.
The Labour MP said: “I’ve told him [Mr Duncan Smith] to his face in the select committee meetings that vulnerable people are suffering and even dying as a result of his regime. But it’s not just me telling him this.
“The mountain of evidence that was put before the select committee inquiry I instigated by religious organisations, academics and charities, not to mention those actually affected by inappropriate sanctions themselves, pointed overwhelmingly to a system that is inhumane and deliberately created to skew unemployment figures.”
Mrs Abrahams, a member for the work and pensions select committee, has for the last two years been a vociferous campaigner to have a full independent inquiry launched and even managed to instigate an inquiry by the committee itself, which reported in March this year.
The cross-party MPs report called for a review of the sanctions regime after concluding it was unfair, punitive and ineffective at helping people into work.
The government has yet to respond to its findings.
Mrs Abrahams said: “It beggars belief that David Cameron can, in the light of this social security advisory committee report, continue to back Mr Duncan Smith as a credible work and pensions secretary when he consistently blocks all calls for an independent inquiry into this issue.
“At previous select committees I have had to shout at Iain Duncan Smith that people are dying as a result of his inhumane sanctions policies but he simply bats away any criticism, calling it ludicrous, as though everyone else is imagining the evidence.
“Maybe now this report by the social security advisory committee will be enough to get the government to act.”
The parliamentary representative for Oldham East and Saddleworth said that is Mr Duncan Smith didn’t have ‘too much to hide and too much to lose’ he would agree to the review.
She said: “If Iain Duncan Smith is so confident that he is right and everyone else is wrong, why doesn’t he just order an inquiry as soon as possible?
“The sad truth is that he has too much to hide and too much to lose.”
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