GOVERNMENT benefit changes mean people in Jarrow “live for weeks on nothing”, town MP Stephen Hepburn warned this week.
His comments came in a heated Parliamentary exchange this week with Employment Minister Esther McVey, during which Mr Hepburn attacked the Government’s welfare reforms and the way it treats people on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).
Mr Hepburn has obtained official Parliamentary statistics, indicating that more than half of those people in Jarrow whose benefits claims are reconsidered are unsuccessful.
Mr Hepburn said: “Can the minister explain why more than 50 per cent of benefit claimants in my constituency, whose benefits have been sanctioned, have had the decision overturned?
“In the meantime, they had to live week for weeks on nothing – unlike that lot over there, who stuff their nests.
“Is it not true that this scheme is nothing more than a con?
“The Government say that they are cutting benefits.
“They are cutting benefits, but they are taking them off the most vulnerable people in the country and leaving them out for ever.”
Mr Hepburn based his claims on new official Parliamentary figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, which indicate that more than 50 per cent of sanctions placed on JSA claimants in the Jarrow constituency have been overturned. The figures reveal that from October 22, 2012, to June 2013, there were 290 reconsiderations submitted to JSA claimants to sanctions imposed on them, with just over 51 per cent overturned.
However, in response, the Employment Minister rejected Mr Hepburn’s claims, stating: “There are a couple of points I need to answer, because what was said was inaccurate.
“The figure for the overturns is 10 per cent, not the high number the honorable gentleman alluded to.
“At the same time, people on sanctions are still on benefits and have an underlying qualification to them.
“The honorable gentleman is incorrect.
“Perhaps he does not like the fact that the number of people in work has gone up significantly under this Government, and the number of people needing to claim benefits has gone down significantly.”