The Behavioural Insights Team says using the threat of sanctions may be counterproductive
The Government should stop forcing benefit claimants to jump through hoops like attending Jobcentre meetings in order to claim benefits, a policy unit set up by Downing Street has recommended.
The Behavioral Insights Team, set up by David Cameron in 2010, said piling unemployed people with responsibilities on pain of sanction might actually be making it harder for them to get jobs.
The so-called Nudge Unit, which was part-privatised in 2014, warned that some Government policies were reducing so-called “cognitive bandwidth” or “headspace” of the people they were designed to help.
“There is evidence that welfare conditionality in the UK – mandatory behavior requirements such as attending meetings with work coaches or providing repeated evidence of disability in order to receive benefits – is associated with anxiety and feelings of disempowerment,” the policy unit said in a report released on Thursday.
“However, as far as we know no one has examined whether welfare conditionality has cognitive depleting effects.”
The report, headlined “Poverty and decision-making”, tries to apply the latest findings from behavioral science to improve government services.
It says that far from anxiety-inducing forms and meetings the welfare system should instead be taking steps such as providing annual summaries of benefit entitlements to people.