Tag: sanctions

Govt response to Work & Pensions Committee sanctions report published yesterday

The government’s response to the House of Commons Work & Pensions Committee report on ‘Benefit Sanctions Policy beyond the Oakley Review’ was published yesterday, 22 October. The response itself, together with an accompanying letter from Iain Duncan Smith to the Committee chair, is at
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/

The accompanying Parliamentary statement by Iain Duncan Smith is at
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2015-10-22/HCWS259

Reaction by the Committee chair Frank Field is at
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2015/benefit-sanctions-committee-report-15-16/

I will be circulating a detailed analysis of the response in the next week or so. Meanwhile, here are the key points about what will and will not change about the sanctions regime as a result of the response:

* The government is continuing to refuse the broad independent review of sanctions which the Committee and others have repeatedly called for.

* Its response (pp.2-3) also deliberately evades the Committee’s specific call for review of the effectiveness of the lengthening of sanctions introduced in 2012.

* The government claims that it will trial a ‘system of warning’ before a sanction is imposed. However the Committee (and Oakley in July 2014) called for a first ‘failure’ to lead to a warning letter, and only a second or subsequent failure to result in a sanction. What the government is proposing is different. It is simply a delay of 14 days in imposing a sanction, during which the claimant will be able to make representations.

* The government has admitted at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jsa-sanctions-impact-of-not-sending-written-notifications-to-claimants-jan-2014-to-dec-2014 that 47,239 JSA claimants (6.9%) who were sanctioned in 2014 did not receive notification before the money failed to appear in their account. Applying this percentage to the whole period of the Coalition government, there will have been about 279,000 cases where claimants had their benefit stopped before being notified. This issue was highlighted by Oakley in July 2014. The government now proposes to deal with this by reintroducing computer-generated notification, but admits that this will be unlikely to be 100% successful.

* The current provision that sanctioned claimants, other than arbitrarily-defined ‘vulnerable’, cannot apply for hardship payments for the first two weeks of a sanction is responsible for destitution and food bank use on a large scale. The Committee firmly recommended that all sanctioned claimants should be able to apply from day one. The government has now agreed only to consider extending the definition of ‘vulnerability’ for the purposes of day one application to ‘a wider group of claimants’. Duncan Smith’s parliamentary statement, but not the response itself, specifically mentions people with mental health conditions and the homeless. The government says it has also speeded up the hardship claim process so that awards are paid within 3 days, and that subject to feasibility the decision maker will in future set up an appointment to discuss hardship payments where claimants are ‘vulnerable’ or have children.

* The government has flatly refused the Committee’s recommendation to track what happens to claimants in terms of employment and claimant status after a sanction, in spite of clearly having the capability to do so.

* The government appears to have given up any attempt to ensure that the one third of all sanctioned claimants whose alleged ‘failure’ is not actively seeking work do not wrongly lose housing benefit as a result. These claimants are ‘disentitled’ as well as ‘sanctioned’ and the response (p.5) accepts that HB may be affected as a result. A recent clarificatory circular to local authorities, HB Bulletin U1-2015 (30 Sep 2015) related only to the two thirds of penalties which are purely ‘sanctions’ and not ‘disentitlements’.

With best wishes

Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Urban Studies
School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Glasgow

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

Help promote petition – Reform benefit sanctions regime

The TUC is running a petition to ask the next Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to immediately reform the failing benefit sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used unfairly and arbitrarily – and it’s not just claimants saying this, but Jobcentre Plus staff. A Selection of Especially Stupid Benefit Sanctions

We currently have just over 8000 signatures but are hoping to get at least 12000. Could you please promote the petition through your networks to help make a strong case for reviewing the current sanction regime. https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/reform-the-cruel-sanctions-regime

Unite holds day of action in the North East calling for end to ‘grotesque cruelty’ of benefit sanctions

Britain’s biggest union, Unite, will hold protests across the North East of England during a national day of action (Thursday 19 March) opposing benefit sanctions which are now being used on an industrial scale.

Punitive sanctions have resulted in over two million people having their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning over the past two years, leading to increased poverty, misery and even death.

In the North East area the total number of sanctions dealt out by the DWP from October 2012 to September 2013 was 53,883 and 52,420 between October 2013 and September 2014.

Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned will be handing in her 211,822-name petition at the DWP – calling on the Prime Minister to investigate the widespread use of benefits sanctions.

Mr Clapson, a vulnerable diabetic ex-soldier, died starving and destitute in 2013 because he was penalised by the job centre for missing a meeting. His sister is demanding answers, saying:

“Benefits sanctions are completely out of control. I want to know how ministers who state everything is done to support the vulnerable can justify their actions leaving people destitute, driving them to food banks, and leading to starvation and death. Do we want to live in a society where the vulnerable are victimised – I certainly do not.”

As things stand money can be cut for arriving late at a job centre, missing an appointment to go to a funeral, or even failing to apply for a job – while waiting to start a new job.

Unite is not prepared to stand idle while this failed coalition government mercilessly targets those already struggling to make ends meet, with ideologically-driven and needless cruelty.

Commenting Joe Rollin, Unite community regional coordinator, said:

“This government is attacking the unemployed for unemployment and treating claimants worse than criminals fined in the courts. Decisions on guilt are made in secret with the claimant not even allowed to be present to explain their case.

“Far from helping people back into work, sanctions undermine physical and mental health. They cause hardship, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to food banks, payday lenders, and to crime.

“There is no justification for this grotesque cruelty by the government. Unite is calling on the DWP to end benefit sanctions as this situation can’t be allowed to go on in the 6th richest country in the world.”

 

Unite holds day of action calling for end to ‘grotesque cruelty’ of benefit sanctions

WHEN: 15:00 to 17:00 Thursday 19 March 2015
WHERE: DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9DA

Britain’s biggest union, Unite, will demonstrate outside the Department for Work and Pensions in London. This is part of a national day of action (Thursday 19 March) opposing benefit sanctions which are now being used on an industrial scale.Punitive sanctions have resulted in over two million people having their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning over the past two years, leading to increased poverty, misery and even death.

In London the total number of sanctions dealt out by the DWP from October 2012 to September 2013 was 130,442 and 103,679 between October 2013 and September 2014.

Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned will be handing in her 211,822-name petition at the DWP – calling on the prime minister to investigate the widespread use of benefit sanctions.

Mr Clapson, a vulnerable diabetic ex-soldier, died starving and destitute in 2013 because he was penalised by his job centre for missing a meeting. His sister is demanding answers, saying:

“Benefit sanctions are completely out of control. I want to know how ministers who state everything is done to support the vulnerable can justify their actions leaving people destitute, driving them to food banks, and leading to starvation and death. Do we want to live in a society where the vulnerable are victimised – I certainly do not.”

As things stand money can be cut for arriving late at a job centre, missing an appointment to go to a funeral, or even failing to apply for a job – while waiting to start a new job.

Unite is not prepared to stand idle while this failed coalition government mercilessly targets those already struggling to make ends meet, with ideologically-driven and needless cruelty.

Commenting Liane Groves Unite Community national organiser said:

“This government is attacking the unemployed for unemployment and treating claimants worse than criminals fined in the courts. Decisions on guilt are made in secret with the claimant not even allowed to be present to explain their case.

“Far from helping people back into work, sanctions undermine physical and mental health. They cause hardship, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to food banks, payday lenders, and to crime.

“There is no justification for this grotesque cruelty by the government. Unite is calling on the DWP to end benefit sanctions as this situation can’t be allowed to go on in the 6th richest country in the world.”

Unite community members will be taking part in protests across London before moving to the Department of Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9DA for a demonstration from 15:00 to 17:00. Regional protests are also being held up and down the country on Thursday 19 March as part of the national day of action.

 

Unite takes action against government attacks on ‘vulnerable’ benefit claimants

Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, will kick start a nationwide campaign tomorrow (Wednesday 4 February) against benefit sanctions which are pushing people into poverty and punishing debt.

The campaign, to stop benefit sanctions, will be launched on the same day that the House of Commons work and pensions committee questions Esther McVey, the minister for employment, over the government’s sanctions regime.

Unite is angry over the way the government imposes benefit sanctions to ‘vulnerable’ claimants – leaving millions of people in poverty, debt, ill health and angry.

On Thursday 19 March, Unite is calling for trade unions, charities and community campaigners up and down the country to take part in a ‘National Day of Action’ with Unite Community Membership, as part of the campaign.

Unite head of community membership, Liane Groves, said: “It is no wonder people are angry. The government has hit millions of vulnerable people and their families with benefit sanctions – causing the rise of food bank Britain.

“Sanctions are cruel and ineffective – often handed out for no good reason.

“We want to send a message to Esther McVey and Westminster that the government is failing to support vulnerable people in our society.  More needs to be done to support us all in time of need – not make personal situations worse.

“Thursday 19 March is a national day of action to highlight the ‘shocking’ impact of government benefit sanctions – we must join forces to stop this now before more people are forced into poverty.”

Welfare Rights Training

Welfare Rights Training Leeds Regional Office 12th and 13th of February

10 AM To 3.30 PM (Both Days)

Travel Costs covered (Lunch Provided Please State if you have and special dietary requirements)
55 Call Lane Leeds LS1 7BW

Thursday the 12th Of February

Overview of benefits:

This course will examine the board structure of the benefits system.  By the end of the course trainees will:

 

  • Be able to recognise when a client needs a full benefit check
  • Be able to identify possible benefits for different clients
  • Know which agency deals with different benefits
  • Know which groups of people who are treated differently for benefits and where special rules apply and where to refer clients for specialist help

Friday the 13th Of February

Benefit sanctions:

Given the increasing numbers of people having their benefits sanctioned this course will examine how advisers can support their clients. By the end of the course trainees will:

 

  • Be able to identify if a sanction can be prevented
  • Understand the different levels of sanctions and the length of a sanction
  • Be able to support clients to challenge sanctions
  • Be able to support your client during a sanction period

 

 Welfare Rights Training Barnsley Unite Community Centre
10.30 AM TO 12.30 PM
2 Huddersfield Road Barnsley S70 2LS

Tuesday the 17th of February

Universal Credit

 

  • Understanding the Changes
  • Preparing for the Change over
  • How to calculate income

 

 Please Book your Place for one or more days by emailing Claire.mawson@unitetheunion.org

Spaces are very limited so please plan carefully before committing to one or more days.

 

Defend the Welfare State meeting

Over the past two years 2 million welfare benefit claimants have been sanctioned. This has led to the unemployed, disabled and chronically ill people going hungry and the spread of food banks as a last resort for many people in poverty situations.

Unite the Unions Community Section are organising a meeting in Barnsley Library on Monday the 12th of January at 5.30 pm,  with the aim of bringing together interested parties to coordinate a practical response to these cruel an unnecessary attacks on the most vulnerable people in our society. Unite have invited a wide range of  groups and societies that are already working tirelessly to alleviate the problems caused by the welfare reforms some of which are listed below we hope you can attend this important meeting and suggest ways in which we can help oppose these appalling policies.

Barnsley Invite Letter
Defend the welfare state barnsley meeting
Advice and Benefits Flyer