Innocence is precious.

“Hundreds of Benefits Claimants are fined every day” is the headline in a recent paper, revealing a dramatic increase in the number of sanctions issued to those who fail to turn up for DWP interviews or to attend to the other requirements of finding a job. You had no money to phone the jobcentre because your mobile phone ran out of credit because you were sanctioned last week? Too bad, here is another sanction to reward you for your efforts….. Sanctions appear to be levied for the strangest reasons, including, not being able to attend two appointments at the same time, and waiting to start a new job.

The current belief that underpins the increase in sanctions and the general tightening of belts is one that screams, “Scroungers, wasters, the lot of them” and so, with that assumption firmly in place, automatically the collective mind charged with administering benefits goes on the lookout for evidence to support that belief. Subconsciously, evidence is found which bolsters that assumption, as well as a whole raft of other assumptions, which are naturally filtered and selective.

The same process happens when we go around saying to ourselves, “I feel sick”. We look for any evidence that vindicates our belief; and the difficulty or discomfort we create in passing is thus not seen as regrettable, but as inevitable.

In that sense, the fact that there has been a huge increase in the number of sanctions being levied against the poorest and most desperate merely bolsters the underlying belief that there are lots of chancers out there, who will do anything to fiddle the system. This is just the tip of the ice-berg, we are just beginning to uncover the scale of the deception…. The presumption of innocence is very precious, yet seems to be under attack in all quarters. The Scottish Parliament seems bent on abolishing the doctrine of corroboration in Scotland too, so that more guilty people will get the justice they deserve.

Innocent people deserve a break too.

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