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WPC Review of Benefits Sanctions Report

The government's Work & Pensions Committee has called for a full independent review in the new Parliament, to investigate whether benefit sanctions are being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately, across the Jobcentre Plus (JCP) network.

The government previously rejected such a recommedation in 2014 but the Committee is concerned about new evidence regarding the approach being adopted in a number of individual Jobcentres, and more broadly, including concerns about whether targets for sanctions exist. The report calls for the independent review also to examine the legislative framework for benefit sanctions policy, to ensure that the basis for sanctioning is well-defined, and that safeguards to protect the vulnerable are clearly set out.

In addition to looking at hardship payments and deaths of claimants, the Committee is also keen to establish evidence on the effectiveness of financial sanctions within successful active regimes 

Dame Anne Begg also called for DWP to take a more common-sense approach to mandatory Work Programme activity and sanction referrals. She said, "It makes no sense, and is a considerable waste of administrative resources, for Work Programme providers to have to refer a claimant back to DWP for a sanction decision, even where they know that the claimant had a perfectly good reason for not meeting a particular requirement. In the negotiations to re-let the Work Programme contracts in 2017, DWP should prioritise the development of a more flexible approach to the setting of mandatory conditions. There is also widespread support for pre-sanction written warnings and non-financial sanctions. The Department should get on with piloting this approach. If it requires legislation, the Department should bring it forward as soon as possible in the new Parliament."

Other recommendations include that DWP should:

  • Not proceed with in-work sanctions beyond the existing pilot areas until robust evidence is available from the pilots to demonstrate that in-work conditionality can be effectively applied. 
  • Establish a small-scale pilot to test the efficacy of a more targeted approach to sanctions based on segmentation of claimants by their attitudes and motivations.
  • Develop new and more effective systems to monitor the destinations of claimants leaving benefit in general and, in particular, those leaving benefit following a sanction.
  • Expedite the evaluation of the Claimant Commitment, including a review of the appropriate use of Jobseeker Directions.
  • Develop guidance which is specifically intended to assist JCP staff to identify vulnerable claimants and tailor conditionality according to the claimant’s individual circumstances.
  • Improve JCP staff training on the statutory single parent flexibilities designed to protect single parent JSA claimants from inappropriate benefit conditionality; and produce a simple, plain English guide to the flexibilities for all single parent claimants.
  • Review Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sanctioning within the Work Programme, and continue to develop alternative approaches to employment support for this group, including voluntary models, such as Individual Placement with Support, for some groups. 

Download the full WPC report here.

 

30 March 2015


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