3-year benefit ban hits 120 disabled people under new sanctions regime

November 6, 2013

The DWP has today published new data on the use of sanctions for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants. It is the first data that covers new sanctions regimes that commenced for JSA in October 2012, and for ESA in December 2012.

Key points from today’s new data include:

  • 120 disabled people who had been receiving Jobseekers Allowance have been given a 3-year fixed duration sanction since October 2012.
  • Since the new JSA sanctions regime started in October last year, sanctions referrals to decision makers have increased by 30%. This follows a doubling of referrals that had already occurred under the Coalition.
  • Since the new JSA sanctions regime started, the number of sanctions applied has increased 13%. This follows a more than doubling of sanctions (increase of 126%) that had already occurred under the Coalition.
  • First infringement sanctions have doubled in length from to fixed mandatory 4 weeks for minor failures for JSA claimants (e.g. being late for an appointment).
  • 53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful.
  • DWP have not yet published any evidence to suggest that a harsh sanction regime has long term benefits for getting claimants into work.

Tim Nichols, a spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“The sanctions regime is an unfolding scandal that is doing tremendous damage to jobseekers and disabled people, even when they are trying to do the right thing.

“Sanctions are meant to have a positive effect on behaviour, so if the system was working their use would be falling as claimants develop positive relationships with Jobcentre and Work Programme advisers and do all the activities needed. Instead, the system has become an unhelpful bureaucratic nightmare, with Jobcentres setting targets to arbitrarily push up the numbers of people hit with a sanction.

“Claimants are finding it increasingly confusing to understand what the sanctions regime expects of them, and many sanctions appear to happen when people are trying to do the right thing, but they just cannot find their way through the unhelpful and chaotic bureaucracy of Jobcentres and the Work Programme.

“The result is demand on foodbanks surging from people whose claims are stopped for weeks, months and even years. Since June last year 120 disabled people have been banned from benefits for a fixed 3 year period, without a systematic safeguard of full case reviews before it reaches that point. Instead of helping people, many claimants are finding that Jobcentres are becoming like a Kafkaesque nightmare. The government should urgently investigate what the consequences are for the children and families of people being failed by this cruel regime.”


Notes to Editors

  • Investigations in 2011 by the Guardian newspaper resulted in an admission by DWP that the Jobcentres had been setting targets for the number of sanctions their staff provide: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/apr/08/jobcentres-benefits-sanctions-targets. The targets set were unrelated to whether or not claimants were actively engaged with job seeking and seeking to meet their jobseeker agreement. Despite DWP committing to end the practice, CPAG has evidence that it has continued into 2013, alongside a practice known as ‘botherability’, in which claimants are deliberately hassled with onerous requirements to make them more likely to fail to meet a requirement, and therefore more likely to receive a sanction.
  • Average figures for JSA referrals and sanctions:

Between Jan 2000 and Dec 2010:

  • 61,739 referrals per month between 2000 and 2010
  • 27,108 sanctions per month between 2000 and 2010

Between Jan 2011 and Sep 2012:

  • 124,002 referred per month between Jan 2011 and Sep 2012
  • 61,286 sanctioned per month between Jan 2011 and Sep 2012

Between Nov 2012 and June 2013:

  • 161,041 referred per month between Nov 2012 and June 2013
  • 69,117 sanctioned per month between Nov 2012 and June 2013

Increase in sanction referrals:

  • Up by 101% since 2010 under old regime (comparing period Jan 2011 to June 2012 to period 2000 to 2010).
  • Further increase of 30% since new regime started (period Nov 2012 onwards.

Increase in sanctions applied:

  • Up by 126% since 2010 under old regime (comparing period Jan 2011 to June 2012 to period 2000 to 2010).
  • Further increase of 13% since new regime started (period Nov 2012 onwards).
  • An example of the impacts of sanctions is given in the Dole Animators film All In It Together, which is an animated film made by a group of claimants in Leeds telling the stories of their experiences of the government’s welfare reforms. You can watch the film here: www.doleanimators.org
  • Sanctions are increasing being applied for reasons that defy fairness and common sense. A collation of such sanction decisions can be found here: http://stupidsanctions.tumblr.com/
  • The government agreed to commission an independent review into the use of sanctions. It is being led by Matthew Oakley, formerly of think tank Policy Exchange. It is due to report in spring 2014.
  • CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
  • CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty coalition, which has members from across civil society including children’s charities, faith groups, unions and other civic sector organisation, united in their campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.


For further information please contact:

Tim Nichols

CPAG Media Officer

Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302