A PROTEST against benefits sanctions outside the Job Centre on Princes Road yesterday was staged to highlight the plight of unemployed and low-income workers, ahead of next week’s general election.

With just seven days to go, the event, organised by Unite and The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, aimed to raise awareness of the far-reaching implications of cuts in financial support.

“When a person is sanctioned it is the whole family that is affected,” said Angel Grace, in her 40s, a former support worker who was unable to continue in her job following a reduction in her salary. “There are people that will never be able to work, with no family to look after them.”

Government statistics show that the number of benefits sanctions decisions taken across the country rose across 2016, to a high of 50,000 in December – the last month for which numbers are available. A benefits sanction can result in a reduction in a claimant’s Universal Credit allowance.

Demonstrating the severity of their concerns, which include cuts to the Disability Living Allowance [DLA], the protesters gathered around a mock coffin, adorned with the words “dead and fit for work”.

Some protesters came dressed in bandages and carrying placards. Leaflets handed out to job seekers and passers-by implored “end benefit sanctions now”.

“The DWP are not professional doctors,” said Grace. “They are clearly not listening to GPs’ advice that they can’t work. They are taking people off the DLA and there are cuts to advocacy.”

One man, dressed as the grim reaper said: “I am facing eviction because I am two months behind paying my rent.” I have put money into the system, I am not one of those who has just left school and is trying to cadge.”

Grace, who only recently gave up her job, found that her salary had dropped from £9.50 per hour to £7.50 after her employer was declared bankrupt and her job transferred to another firm. “We need the job centre to vet companies and look into these people. They need to vet their bosses so that we’re safe and we can stay in these jobs.”

She emphasised that benefit sanctions were not only affecting the unemployed: “Even nurses are going to food banks now. Keep it in mind that this affects low income people, people on disability allowance. We need higher wages so that we don’t need the Universal Credit to top them up.”