Benefit sanctions

I have had several constituents contact me who have been subject to the DWP’s benefit sanctions regime. My experience of dealing with these constituents strengthens my view that the current sanctions regime is unfit for purpose and that it should be halted and reviewed.

This afternoon. I took the opportunity to highlight some of the awful situations that some of my constituents have been placed in as a result of the benefit sanctions regime in a Westminster Hall debate. One constituent on Employment Support Allowance, who was suffering from severe depression, was sanctioned for failing to attend a work-related interview, despite his condition making him too ill to attend the interview. Another constituent lost their Jobseeker’s Allowance for over a year after failing to attend an adviser interview – the constituent was not given written notification of the sanction and was not given details of appeal.

However, the most ludicrous example of the failings of the sanctions regime is my constituent on Universal Credit who, having received a form offer of employment, was still expected to adhere to the Claimant Commitment even though he was due to start employment in the next few weeks. This case was featured in today’s edition of The National. This represents the ultimate failing of the DWP’s regime – people who are actually in work are potentially subject to sanction. I will continue to campaign for the existing sanctions regime to be halted and for a full independent review into sanctions to take place without delay.

Press release – Alison Thewliss MP welcomes child refugees in the UK

Alison Thewliss MP provides a welcome message for unaccompanied child refugees

Alison Thewliss MP is urging constituents to write a welcome message for lone child refugees arriving in the UK. Almost 2,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in the UK this year, many of whom have fled wars and persecution. Save the Children’s campaign calls on members of the public to write a welcome message, which will be printed in books being distributed across the UK to help these children learn English. This will help children to integrate in their new communities, and to learn and thrive.

Ms Thewliss wrote a message on Tuesday 15th December and is now asking his/her constituents to join the two thousand campaigners that have already taken part.

After the traumatic experiences child refugees have been through, it’s vital these vulnerable children feel safe, and get help to build a new life. Save the Children has teamed up with Pearson, the world’s largest education company, to give child refugees arriving in the UK a welcome gift – a special pack of books, appropriate to their age and ability, to help them learn English. 7,000 books are being delivered in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

To make these children feel truly welcome, members of the public are being encouraged to write a personal ‘welcome to the UK’ message to be printed into every pack of books.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I’m delighted to support Save the Children’s campaign to welcome child refugees in the UK. These children have been through so much – fleeing conflict and persecution. I’m glad that the UK can help provide them with a safe home and a fresh start.”

“As winter sets in I’m remain concerned about the plight of child refugees in Europe who are all alone and have no family with them. I’m supporting Save the Children’s call on the UK government to offer to relocate up to 3,000 of these children to the UK”

Anyone can join the campaign by submitting their message online:


Scottish National Party MP, Alison Thewliss, has demanded that the Department of Work & Pensions urgently close a loophole, whereby a benefit claimant, who has been offered work, can still be sanctioned for not looking for a job, even in the intervening period between being offered a job and starting work.

The Glasgow MP was prompted to write to Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, after a constituent – who has chosen to remain anonymous – was sanctioned by the DWP for not looking for work in the intervening period before being offered a job and starting their new job – at the DWP of all places.

Ms Thewliss has written to the Secretary of State to demand that he issues urgent guidance to all DWP staff that sanctions shouldn’t be applied on cases such as this.

Alison Thewliss said:

“Week in, week out, I sit in the House of Commons and listen to this callous Tory Government batter on about getting people back into work, often at any cost – be that disgraceful zero hour contracts or on appalling national minimum wage rate jobs.

“What we can see from this case is people trying very hard to get back into work.  So they find a job but then have the rug pulled from under their feet at the eleventh hour with a sanction.

“My parliamentary question reveals a serious discrepancy in DWP policy which effectively means it is pot luck whether you get a sympathetic work coach or not.  That is no way to run a social security system.

“I have written to Iain Duncan Smith and demanded that he immediately issues guidance to DWP officials that no-one should be sanctioned in the intervening period of being offered a job and starting work.  The UK Government need to shake off this unhealthy obsession with slapping sanctions on people who are just trying to get on in difficult times.

“It is also time to shine a very bright light back onto the wider issue of sanctions because leaked evidence from the PCS, the civil servants’ union, clearly suggests that they are in fact target driven, despite the Government’s less than convincing claims that they are not.  The Secretary of State needs to come clean once and for all and he should make this government’s New Year’s resolution to ditch its unhealthy obsession with sanctions”.

Christmas Post!

Christmas is a busy time of year, not least for Royal Mail who have to handle a much larger volume of parcels and letters. I visited the hardworking posties at the Victoria Road sorting office, who have been putting in a huge amount of effort to deliver our cards and parcels to us in time. Their efforts were very impressive and will no doubt deliver a first class Christmas for all of my constituents. I would like to thank the team at Victoria Road, and at sorting offices around Scotland, for all of their efforts and I wish them all the best over the busy festive period.

FREE FIRST USE MP Alison Thewliss visits Glasgow G41-G42-G5 Delivery Office to see how it is getting ready for Christmas. L-r Ian McInnes, Kevin Plunkett, MP Alison Thewliss, Daniel Connolly, Les Peyto Lenny Warren / Warren Media 07860 830050 01355 229700 All images © Warren Media 2015. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the commissioning client's press-released story. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission.
(Credit: Lenny Warren/Warren Media)
FREE FIRST USE MP Alison Thewliss visits Glasgow G41-G42-G5 Delivery Office to see how it is getting ready for Christmas. MP Alison Thewliss chats to Harry Blackburn and Fraser Matthew. Lenny Warren / Warren Media 07860 830050 01355 229700 All images © Warren Media 2015. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the commissioning client's press-released story. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission.
(Credit: Lenny Warren/Warren Media)

Press release – Alison Thewliss raises rape clause at PMQs

Glasgow Central MP, Alison Thewliss, today challenged the Government’s “abhorrent and vile policy” of making women prove that they have been raped, simply in order to receive tax credits for a third child.

Raising the issue on the floor of the House of Commons for the seventh time since she was elected, Ms Thewliss called upon Chancellor George Osborne – who was standing in for David Cameron at PMQs – to drop the rape clause now.

The Chancellor confirmed that the Government was currently consulting on the policy but Ms Thewliss has called for the proposal to be dropped as a matter of urgency.

Speaking after challenging George Osborne during Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Thewliss said:

“I’ve now raised this issue with the Government seven times and they still can’t justify this abhorrent and vile policy.

“It is clear that everyone, with the exception of this out of touch Tory Government, know that the policy is totally unworkable and utterly degrading.

“Given that the Prime Minister was not there to answer my question today, I have now written to him to ask that he personally meet me and representatives of women’s groups, and to look us in the eye and seriously justify Government officials interrogating women to prove they’ve had their third child as a result of rape”.

The UK Government’s “rape clause” proposals

During DWP Questions today I challenged Iain Duncan Smith to scrap his ill-thought out plans to force women who have a third child as a consequence of being raped to prove this to a Government official in order to receive tax credit payments.

Asking women who have been raped to relive such a traumatic experience and – worse still – justify their child’s birth is appalling and has got to be the lowest this Government has stooped yet.

I’ve met with a number of women’s welfare organisations and rape crisis groups who are rightly calling for the Government to bin these ill thought out plans. SNP action has already led to u-turns on tax credit policy and I’ll be campaigning hard to make sure this policy is the next to be put through the Downing Street shredder.

Breastfeeding Conference

19115 - Unicef breastfeeding Conference (1)This week I attended the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative Annual Conference. I enjoyed meeting with various organisations who do excellent work to promote breastfeeding. I am currently working on setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding and Inequalities and I look forward to working more closely with some of the organisations I have met at the UNICEF Conference over the coming weeks and months.

The Trade Union Bill

I met with the EIS at my constituency office and pledged my opposition to the Trade Union Bill. I believe that this Bill threatens the fundamental rights to organise and bargain collectively, as well as placing undue restrictions on strike ballots and social media communication by trade union members. ‪#‎killthebill

Refugees welcome

I am delightAlison - Aye Welcome Refugees 2 - 18115ed to see the first arrivals of refugees in Scotland under the UK Government’s refugee resettlement scheme. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all of those who have come to Scotland.

The Scottish Government, in partnership with the Scottish Refugee Council, established an online hub to provide practical support and assistance to refugees in Scotland. I and my SNP colleagues will continue to use our influence to ensure that the UK works in partnership with our European neighbours to devise a long-term solution to the refugee crisis, which should include diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria.