DWP using benefit sanctions to force claimants into zero hours jobs, Tory minister admits

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that is using the controversial benefits sanctions regime to force unemployed and low-paid workers into insure and exploitative zero-hours jobs.

Zero hours employment notoriously offers no guarantee of hours and lacks many of the employment rights enjoyed by people in full-time and part-time employment.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/dwp-using-benefit-sanctions-to-force-claimants-into-zero-hours-jobs-tory-minister-admits/

Benefits sanctions overused to reduce claimant numbers, critics claim

Work and pensions committee hears that sanctions have seen millions withheld from claimants since coalition tightened conditions

There is a broad political consensus that job seekers must fulfill certain obligations as a condition of receiving unemployment benefit. This consensus is breaking down, however, over how harsh this conditionality should be and whether it is effective in getting people back into work.

Ministers claim that benefits sanctions send a clear message to the tiny minority of claimants who abuse the system, making them more likely to look for jobs, and ending the so-called “something-for-nothing” culture. They have said sanctions are a “last resort” imposed on people unwilling to work.

Critics, however, say that the sanctions system has spiralled out of control since the coalition tightened benefit conditionality in autumn 2012. Ten years ago, typically a thousand people a month would be sanctioned; by October 2013 that figure hit 12,000 and currently stands at around 7,000. In some areas up to 10% of all unemployment benefit claimants were sanctioned.

Sanctioning is no longer a last resort tactic aimed at the stubbornly workshy, say critics, but a crude way of pushing down claimant numbers and cutting back on the benefits bill. The work and pensions committee has heard estimates that sanctions have seen £275m withheld from claimants – who are already living on the breadline – over the past two years. The biggest impact has been on vulnerable individuals, such as people with mental illness, who are unable, rather than unwilling, to comply with the benefit conditions.

read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/20/benefits-sanctions-overuse-claimant-numbers-reduce

Minister Refuses To Examine Impact Of Benefit Sanctions On Mental Health

Disabilities Minister, Priti Patel, refused to examine the devastating impact of benefit sanctions on people with mental health conditions.

The increased use and rising severity of benefit sanctions became an integrated part of welfare “conditionality” in 2012.

Read about this at Welfare Weekly, here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/minister-refuses-to-examine-impact-of-benefit-sanctions-on-mental-health/

What’s Wrong With Benefit Sanctions?

Picture this: you’re ten minutes late for a meeting at work. You’re very sorry. You explain to your boss how the bus was on diversion and took half an hour longer than usual. Your boss has no time to discuss it and simply tells you that you won’t get paid this month. That’s it, not a fine, or some kind of reduction, but nothing, no pay, absolutely nothing.

Or this: you’re home based. You’re on flexible hours. Today you had an appointment to check in with the team. But just as you were leaving to go to the office, your daughter’s school called. She’s in the sick room, they say. She isn’t well and the school needs you to fetch her home right away. You phone your office and explain there’s an emergency and head off for the school instead. Next thing you know, your work has written you a letter telling you, you won’t get paid this month: nothing, no pay, absolutely nothing; four weeks without a penny. No investigation; no checking the facts; no phone call to the school to see if your story added up.

Of course, in the UK, today, this would never happen. There are laws to prevent it. If anyone tried to justify anything like this in the workplace, they would be told just how grossly disproportionate a sanction like losing a month’s pay would be. And the idea the punishment could be put into action on a first offence, no yellow card, so to speak, would make it all the more far-fetched. Far-fetched that is, if we are talking workplace and employment.

But foodbanks in the Trussell Trust network deal with this type of situation with welfare recipients every day. A pregnant women who was working part time (less than 16 hours per week) but was ‘not looking for a job hard enough’ and sanctioned and left hungry. A construction worker on a zero hours contract who was sanctioned because he found work that day and had to cancel his appointment. Just two of many examples.

Somehow, the nation has got itself in a place where draconian action like this happens to tens of thousands of citizens without most of the rest of us batting an eyelid! Not when they are in work, but when they are out of it.

And this benefit sanctioning is even sometimes justified by saying it prepares people for the real world of work. How unreal is that. It’s like a parallel universe where the well-honed principles that govern relations between employees and their employers have been ditched in favour of a system that seems to have forgotten justice and proportionality.

I’m left puzzling. Why does behaviour we would think outrageous if it were a business owner trying it, get given the okay when it’s people administering the benefits system that do it? What justifies the rules being so very different?

read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-mould/whats-wrong-with-benefit-sanctions_b_8055036.html

26 ways Tories were told to clean up benefit sanctions – and they haven’t done any of them

Six months ago a damning report by MPs said the Tories should make 26 urgent reforms to the welfare system. Not a single one has happened

The Tories are still reeling from campaign that revealed more than 2,500 people died after being found fit for work.

Now the same activists who pushed for those figures have a new target in their sights.

Mike Sivier and Maggie Zolobajluk – who recruited a quarter of a million people in their last campaign – want the Tories to reform benefit sanctions.

A damning report by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee attacked the system in March and recommended 26 urgent reforms.

Six months have passed and not one of the reforms has happened.

The campaigners are now demanding two of the most desperate changes are put in place immediately, followed by the other 24.

They are a full review of sanctions, and for hardship payments to be handed out the day someone has their benefits withdrawn, not many days later.

In their petition – already signed by more than 3,000 people – the campaigners attack David Cameron’s punishing welfare cuts.

“Under your watch, Mr Cameron, too many people to whom you have a duty of care are needlessly suffering and dying,” they write.

Read what the 26 recommendations were here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/26-ways-tories-were-told-6364780

Nearly Half Of Benefit Sanctions Overturned On Appeal, Official Figures Show

Nearly half of benefit sanctions imposed against Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants are overturned on appeal, official figures show.

Statistics show that since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012 (December 3, 2012 for ESA), there has been 1,824,877 adverse sanctions imposed against JSA and ESA claimants up to March 31 2015.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has highlighted how 575,901 of these sanctions were challenged with 285,327 being overturned – a staggering 49.5%.

Commenting on the findings, SNP Welfare Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The sanctions regime instituted by the UK Government is causing heartache and misery to hundreds of thousands of people across the UK – and the fact that half of all those challenged are overturned is deeply concerning.

“We have already heard the heartbreaking stories of claimants being sanctioned whilst in hospital recovering from a heart attack or other medical emergency, but these figures lay bare the ‘sanction now, ask questions later’ nature of the UK Government’s indefensible regime.

“With very nearly 50 per cent of reviewed cases being reversed, it is clear to see that these cruel and punitive sanctions are being slapped on people before proper consideration and understanding of individual circumstances have been established.


Read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/nearly-half-of-benefit-sanctions-overturned-on-appeal-official-figures-show/

More than 100 people per day with mental health problems are having their benefits sanctioned

The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed

New data released today (20th Jan 2015) has revealed that benefits claimants judged as unfit to work due to mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped by sanctions than those suffering from other conditions.

Policy advisers for the Methodist Church obtained the data using Freedom of Information Requests to the Department of Work and Pensions. It shows that people who receive the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of a long-term mental health problem are being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day. In March 2014 – the last month for which data is available – approximately 4,500 people with mental health problems who receive ESA because of mental health problems were sanctioned.

Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, said: “We believe that the number of people with mental health problems who have their benefit stopped due to being sanctioned is in fact a great deal higher than 100 a day. Not included in these figures are people who receive ESA due to a physical illness, but who have a higher risk of mental health difficulties.”

According to the DWP data, the most common reason for being sanctioned is that a person has been late or not turned up for a Work Programme appointment.

“Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping. The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed,” said Mr Morrison, who is also the author of an upcoming report on the sanctions regime. “Churches have increasingly seen people in desperate need because they have been sanctioned. The suffering and injustice we have seen caused by the sanctions system deserves serious scrutiny.”

Read the rest of this article from the Methodist Church here: http://www.methodist.org.uk/news-and-events/news-releases/new-data-more-than-100-people-per-day-with-mental-health-problems-are-having-their-benefits-sanctioned


Review of benefit sanctions urged amid concern over regime’s effectiveness

Advisers to Iain Duncan Smith say there is no hard evidence that stopping payments to claimants is helping people get jobs

Official advisers to Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, have called for an urgent and robust review of the government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime amid concerns that it is failing to help jobless claimants.

The independent social security advisory committee says the policy of stopping claimants’ dole payments for alleged breaches of benefit rules should be put on hold until “a firm evidence base” has been established.

Sanctions, under which claimants lose benefit payments for between four weeks and three years, have come under fire for being unfair, punitive, failing to increase job prospects, and causing hunger, debt and ill-health among jobseekers.

Although ministers say monetary penalties are effective in helping people into jobs by changing their attitudes to work, the committee says there is no hard evidence for this and urges ministers to consider trialling non-financial sanctions.

It states in its report to ministers: “[The committee], among others, has raised concerns about the increased use of sanctions, not because we believe that they are necessarily ineffective, but because we do not know for certain that they are effective, at least in terms of getting people into good quality jobs.

“We believe that the sanctions regime needs to be tested.”

read the rest of this article here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jul/26/benefit-sanctions-review-urged-amid-concern-over-regimes-effectiveness