Benefit sanctions soar under tougher regime

There has been a sharp rise in the number of people suffering benefit sanctions under new, harsher rules introduced by the coalition government, according to the latest statistics.

New rules from October 2012 introduced a regime of fixed-period sanctions for jobseeker's allowance (JSA) claimants – including for the offence of leaving a job voluntarily, which can now lead to claimants losing all their JSA for a fixed period of 13 weeks for a first failure, 26 weeks for a second failure, and three years for a third and subsequent failure.

Key points

  • Between November 2012 (the first full month of the new JSA sanctions) and June 2013 there were 553,000 sanctions applied, compared with 499,000 between November 2011 and June 2012 – a jump of nearly 11 per cent.
  • 53 per cent of adverse decisions under the new sanctions regime were in the ‘low’ group, 38 per cent in the ‘intermediate’ group, and 9 per cent in the ‘high’ (most severe) group.  
  • Under the new regime, just over a third (36 per cent) of adverse decisions were made because of a failure to actively seek employment, with 30 per cent because of a failure to participate in the Work Programme (and other training schemes), and 20 per cent because of a failure to attend an advisory interview.
  • A total of 223,000 people have received a low-level sanction, 167,000 have received an intermediate-level sanction, and 48,000 have received a high-level sanction.
  • Across all sanction levels, over three-quarters of individuals receiving an adverse decision were doing so for the first time under the new sanctions regime.

The government defended the new regime, saying it is aimed at 'ending the something for nothing culture'. But in the same week it announced an independent review of JSA sanctions: Matthew Oakley, a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee, will look at the clarity of information given to JSA claimants who have had their benefits reduced for failing to take part in mandatory back-to-work schemes, and what can be done to make the process clearer.

Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance Sanctions: Decisions Made to June 2013, GB, Department for Work and Pensions | Independent Review of Jobseeker's Allowance Sanctions, Department for Work and Pensions
LinksReport | DWP press release | Consultation document (review) | Citizens Advice press release | CPAG press release | JRF press release | Oxfam press release | BBC report (1) | BBC report (2) | Daily Mail report | Guardian report (1) | Guardian report (2) | New Statesman report | Telegraph report

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