Jobless jester to walk the benefits tightrope in Shirebrook protest

Thousands of benefits receivers have the money docked for 'no good reason' say Shirebrook protesters.

Tuesday, 1st March 2016, 6:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 10:01 am
A circus performer is to take part in a campaign against jobseeker's rights in Shirebrook. (Pictured performing in Redcar market).
A circus performer is to take part in a campaign against jobseeker's rights in Shirebrook. (Pictured performing in Redcar market).

Rights campaigners are to protest in a feat of acrobatics against Jobcentre practices, to highlight that they call the circus of 'walking the tightrope' of the benefits system, juggling his problems and responsibilities without a government safety net.

The piece of outdoor satire is set to take place at Shirebrook Jobcentre on Wednesday, March 9, organised by the local branch of UNITE Commuity.

Colin Hampton of the campaign group described the circus act: "A man will walk out of Shirebrook jobcentre into the market place. He will rip off his shirt to reveal he is the unemployed hero. Through circus skills he will tell the story of a man made redundant, who after a few weeks of signing on, finds life on the dole is nothing to laugh about.

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"Whilst juggling with problems he then must look for work by walking the tightrope outlined in his jobseekers commitment. He will climb the platform and attempt to cross from the job centre to an insecure zero hours, agency job, aware that the government can remove the safety net by taking away his benefits."

The protesters will then ask members of the public to come and try and replicate the skills of our unemployed hero. The event, organised by the Chesterfield Unite Community Branch is part of the national day of action against benefit sanctions.

Colin added: ‘We have to alert the public to the disastrous situation facing people who become unemployed.

"Benefit sanctions are supposed to be about changing attitudes to work. However our experience is that people are less likely to find work if plunged into destitution and debt with the corresponding effect on a person’s health, both mental and physical."

And the protest comes after research shows that thousands in the area are being sanctioned needlessly, says Financial Action and Advice Derbyshire, which is due to officially launch their results after the protest, at the Christian Centre, Patchwork Row, 10.30am.

Beverley Parker of the organisation which fights for people's financial security, said:"For someone claiming benefits, receiving a sanction can have a long lasting effect on their health, their finances and their relationships – and it can make it harder for them to look for work.

“Our research shows that punishing people for not following the rules is not only pointless, it is causing severe and enduring hardship for many people. Most people feel totally unable to do anything about the sanction and many are still feeling the effects 6 months later.”

The research looked at Department of Work and Pensions data, showing that 90 per cent of sanctions go unchallenged.

Ms Parker added: “This is very worrying because we know from our advice partners that many of the decisions appear to apply the law incorrectly. People are being deprived of their benefit money for no good reason – this could be as many as 7,000 people in Derbyshire in a typical year.”