MP Nick Boles has made a retraction statement following comments to the Grantham Journal and charity Grantham Passage that there is an ‘inhuman inflexibility’ with the sanctioning of some benefit claimants.
In a subsequent statement, Mr Boles said: “Benefit sanctions are an essential part of our reforms to end the something for nothing culture and they have helped record numbers of people back into work since 2010.
“I am a strong supporter of them in both principle and practice – those who can work, should work. Of course we need to make sure that the decision to impose sanctions is properly applied and employment advisers work hard to make sure special circumstances are taken into account.”
According to the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman, David Cameron agrees with Mr Boles’ statement.
It follows the Conservative MP’s visit to speak to volunteers from homeless and poverty-concern charity Grantham Passage, who had invited Mr Boles to discuss their worries over benefit sanctions.
During their meeting, Mr Boles said: “With some of these cases it seems to me that there is an inhuman inflexibility that is imposed on them.”
The cases presented by the volunteers included the sanctioning of a claimant who had stayed overnight at Lincoln County Hospital when his newborn baby was in intensive care. Mr Boles added: “The sanctions are a worry, and do need to be looked at.”
Asked about what changes can be made, Mr Boles said: “In the run up to the election there is not a lot we can do in terms of changing policy, but we can get the case studies together where the sanctions seem to be most unreasonable. Then I can go to see a minister of whatever party is in government, at a time when they’ll be thinking about making changes.”
Mr Boles, a Conservative business and education minister, said he would take the charity’s concerns and the case studies the volunteers are gathering to central government.
He added: “I do understand why there needs to be a disciplined system and there needs to be a process they go through, but I do think there are too many of these cases where it does seem inhumanly inflexible.”