Welfare - Sanctions Fingertip Facts

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From 2010 the coalition created a hostile environment for welfare claimants

The coalition's 2012 Welfare Reform Act carried the hostile approach into law and saw the ramping up of the regime

The Lib Dems took legal advice prior to voting for the welfare reform act and were advised it was illegal. They voted for the act anyway

The 2012 Welfare Reform Act introduced the "Claimant Commitment pledge"

The pledge or work plan was defined as “ regular specific tasks and training opportunities and the penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work will be clearly spelt out”

The Claimant Commitment was partly blamed for a 60% rise in jobseeker’s having their benefits sanctioned

;These sanctions could mean benefits cut or stopped completely for weeks, months or even years for failure to adhere to the jobseeker’s agreement

The Citizens Advice Bureau said at the time, benefit sanctions can create barrier to employment

DWP statistics showed 38,969 of decisions to sanction were later overturned following an appeal

In 2014 the coalition introduced new measures that meant many more single parents with children under five faced sanctions

The toughness of the rules along side overstretched job centres meant that more single parents were bound to suffer from sanctions

Gingerbread described it as a tick box exercise that failed to take into account the needs of the parents or help them into work

Even before the new rules were introduced 38% of single parents on appeal were found to have been wrongly sanctioned

By 2014 the coalition sanctions were beginning to bite, with lone parents seeing since 2009 a 563% increase in sanctions, 65% increase for disabled and 76% increase for women

The PCS union said that there was mounting evidence which suggests that Jobcentre advisers are being pressurised into sanctioning the unemployed

The PCS union said that the current sanctions regime is a “pernicious and counter-productive” tool which does little to encourage unemployed people to look for work

Trussell Trust said that benefit delays, including over-zealous sanctions, account for a significant percentage of people who require food aid

Over the years a number of Jobcentre employees have come forward and revealed that the DWP gives sanction targets to staff and provides guidance on how to trip claimants up so that they can be sanctioned

Under the coalition it was those with mental health issues that suffered most from sanctions. This was a result of MH issues making it impossible for some sufferers to meet the new hostile compliance regime

The DWP showed that between January and March 2014 9,851 (60%) adverse benefit sanctions decisions were made against ESA claimants with mental or behavioural disorders.

The Work and Pensions Committee had raised concerns in early 2014 about the sanctions regime, but it had been rejected by the coalition government

Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee said “Recent research suggests that benefit sanctions are contributing to food poverty.

Dame Anne Begg MP also said "No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where they are at risk of severe financial hardship, to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent."

In August 2015 DWP guidance on hardship payments for sanctioned Jobseekers Allowance claimants said a person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if they have an accompanying physical health problem

Mind said they were "seeking clarity from the DWP as to why people with mental health problems who have had their benefits stopped aren’t considered to be vulnerable in this instance."

In 2015 it was discovered that the government had significantly understated the number of Jobseekers Allowance claimants being sanctioned

The government had stated that only a small minority of claimants were being sanctioned

Figures showed that since the coalition had come to power sanctions had more than doubled from 7.7% in 2010 to 16.7% (1 in 6) in 2014

The increase in the number of sanctions had also come at a time when the length of any given sanction had risen to a minimum of 4 weeks and a maximum of 3 years

Between December 2012 and June 2015 the DWP imposed 70,452 sanctions on sick and disabled people

This represents a huge rise in sanctions against those who have been deemed unfit for work following a work capability assessment

These sanctions are at odds with the coalition's own stipulation for sanctions which states... “You may get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if your illness or disability affects your ability to work”, including “work-related activity.”

A report by the Department of Sociology of the University of Oxford found that the imposition of adverse sanctions inreased exit from unemployment. They were unable to detect an impact on employment recovery

A report by Salford City Partnership (SCP) concluded The implementation of the DWP’s conditionality and sanctions regime continues to cause distress and destitution for the claimant

SCP concluded an increased demand for support for the City’s public and community and voluntary sector agencies

SCP concluded many vulnerable claimants are still receiving benefit sanctions which are often inappropriate and potentially unlawful

SCP concluded devastating impact on the lives of people who are already struggling to make ends meet

SCP concluded sanctions affect an individual’s ability to meet essential living expenses for themselves and family such as food and fuel

SCP concluded sanctions can also lead to longer term problems including debt, rent and council tax arrears and in some cases destitution

SCP concluded sanctions do not “incentivise people into work”

SCP concluded the sanctions regime serves as a barrier, preventing people from engaging in appropriate training, volunteering and demotivating employment-related activities

SCP concluded sudden loss of income by imposing punitive sanctions often damages people’s mental health, create tensions within family relationships and may cause individuals to turn to crime in order to meet their basic survival needs

The 2010-2015 coalition had set the scene for a hostile sanctions environment. The Conservative government carried on the hostility from 2015 to present

A National Audit Office (NAO) in November 2016 made it clear that there was still no evidence that sanctions worked

The NAO report found that sanctions which have caused thousands of claimants to fall into hardship and depression

The NAO report also found sanctions are being handed out without evidence that they actually work

The DWP is failing to monitor thousands of people whose benefits are being cut or withheld while many are being pushed outside the benefits system

In February 2017 A report by the public accounts committee found that some Work Programme providers and jobcentres withhold payments to twice as many people as others in the same area

The committee found the use of financial penalties, which it found “have increased in severity in recent years and can have serious consequences” such as forcing claimants into homelessness

The committee said "Nor can the DWP estimate the wider effects of sanctions on people and their overall cost, or benefit, to government.”

By 2018 more than a million benefits sanctions had been imposed on disabled people since 2010

Unemployed disabled claimants are up to 53% more likely to be docked money than claimant who are not disabled

Trials to improve the sanction system were scrapped despite their success

In 2018 the Work and Pensions Select Committee expressed anger and frustration over the lack of evidence provided by the DWP to an inquiry into the effectiveness and impact of punitive benefit sanctions

Data suggests that sanctions are being imposed for longer periods, and sometimes against vulnerable people the DWP accept are too ill or disabled to work

In March 2019 The British Psychological Society (BPS) called on the DWP to put an end to its cruel benefit sanctions regime, which they say is known to be harmful to vulnerable people’s mental health

Figures released by the DWP showed that a shocking 256,000 Universal Credit claimants were hit by adverse benefit sanction decisions between May 2016 and April 2019

The data also reveals that 5% of Universal Credit sanctions have been for six months or longer

From February 2019 to April 2019, 84% of all Universal Credit full service decisions resulted in a sanction, up 13% from November 2018 to January 2019


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