BRIEFING: THE DWP’S JSA/ESA SANCTIONS STATISTICS RELEASE

In the year to 31 March 2015 there were 587,000 JSA sanctions before challenges and 506,502 after. They have fallen by about 44% from their peaks, the main reason being a fall of 37% in the average number of JSA claimants. There is also a downward trend in JSA sanctions as a percentage of JSA claimants, from peaks of 6.77% per month before challenges and 5.83% after in the year to March 2014, to 5.49% and 4.73% respectively in the year to March 2015, although rates have levelled off in the latest quarter. Sanction rates are still 84% and 70% above those inherited from the previous Labour government. These figures do not include jobseeker sanctions under Universal Credit, which probably reached some 1,700 per month by March 2015. No update is available on the proportion of JSA claimants sanctioned, which was about one quarter in the five years to March 2014.

ESA sanctions have also fallen, to 43,300 before challenges and 33,353 after in the year to March 2015. This partly reflects the decline in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, but as a percentage of claimants, sanctions before challenges have also begun to decline slightly, and after challenges have stabilised. In the year to March 2015 the monthly rate was 0.71% before challenges and 0.55% after.

New data show that sanctioned ESA claimants are almost as likely to be sanctioned repeatedly as are sanctioned JSA claimants. Under the new regime since 2012, the former received an average of 1.69 sanctions each after challenges, and the latter 1.81.

A clarification by DWP has revealed that while all ‘reserved’ decisions that become actual sanctions are recorded as adverse decisions, the published statistics are giving us no idea at all of the actual numbers of reserved decisions or of the proportion which end up becoming actual sanctions. Halving of the proportion of ‘reserved’ within total decisions under the Coalition may reflect stricter enforcement when people make renewed claims.

Under the ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ regime, the proportion of JSA sanctions overturned after challenge remains at about 13%, but for those claimants who actually make a challenge it has risen to two-thirds. For ESA claimants, the proportion of sanctions overturned after challenge has fallen from about 35% to under 20%, and for those who actually make a challenge it has fallen from 60% to 40%.

As a result of complaints by Jonathan Portes of NIESR and myself, the UK Statistics Authority on 5 August recommended changes in the content and presentation of the sanctions statistics.

At the end of this briefing there are notes on this and other recent developments in relation to sanctions, and comments on reports from the OECD and Resolution Foundation. An Appendix reproduces a statement given by a recent claimant to her Jobcentre when she gave up claiming JSA despite still being unemployed. It illustrates many defects of the current JSA regime.

Read the full report here: 15-08 Sanctions Stats Briefing – D.Webster Aug 2015