MIKE Amesbury has welcomed plans to scrap punitive benefit sanctions lasting up to three years, but says the current system still leaves families and children facing hunger and hardship.

Following pressure from Mike in his role as shadow employment minister – along with his Labour colleagues, Citizens Advice, Mind and other third sector group – work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd announced the DWP was scrapping the ‘counterproductive’ policy.

Such sanctions included withholding payments of unemployment benefits as punishment for apparent slight infringements, including being minutes late for the assessment appointment, have in the past been criticised.

Despite scrapping the three-year upper limit, sanctions of up to six months can still be issued and Mike thinks these could still have a detrimental impact on families.

Speaking from the despatch box, Mike said: "It is welcome that the Secretary of State has finally responded to pressure from the Labour Party and abolished the punitive three-year sanctions.

"However, failure to scrap this punishing regime entirely means, as we have heard across the House today, that many people, including children, will continue to suffer.

"Six months is a long time to go without money, so will The Secretary of State go the extra mile and abolish punitive sanctions altogether?”

Speaking outside the Chamber, Mike added: “It’s right that people should be expected to engage with the system when they look for work and many staff in the DWP do a good job under tremendous pressure.

"However, our welfare system should be a safety net there to help support people back into work when they’ve fallen on hard times, not something which inspires fear and causes hardship.

"More emphasis should be place on providing intensive support and employing more work coaches, rather than cutting staff.”