Benefit sanctions that can plunge claimants into hardship, hunger and depression are being handed out with little evidence they work – a scathing report by the public spending watchdog has found.
Use of the penalties also varies “substantially” across the country and referral rates have changed significantly over time, according to the National Audit Office.
It accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits.
MPs said the findings showed it was “pot luck” which people were sanctioned and demanded ministers “get a grip” of the “discredited” system.
Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: “Sanctions are being applied at a scale unknown since the Second World War and the operation of sanctions on this scale has made for the most significant change in the post-war social security system.
“Yet the Government holds no information on what has happened to large numbers of people who have had their money withdrawn”