ESA sanctions: When did the ‘last resort’ become the first option?


Unfair treatment: The sick and disabled are used to poor behaviour from the Department for Work and Pensions, from the rigged ‘work capability assessment’ scheme to the current revelation that sanctions against them have rocketed.

The BBC is reporting a “shocking” rise in the number of sanctions given to those who receive a key sickness benefit, according to homeless charity Crisis.

Official figures for the first quarter of 2014 showed sanctions on Employment and Support Allowance claimants were 4.5 times higher than in the same quarter in 2013 – although the 2014 figure still includes claimants who are appealing,” according to the BBC News website.

“In the first three months of 2014, there were 15,955 sanctions on ESA claimants, compared with 3,574 in the same period last year.” That’s three per cent of the 552,000 claimants in the Work-Related Activity group (the only ESA group that can be sanctioned) – uncannily close to the five per cent sanction target allegedly operated by Job Centre Plus workers on Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants.

We have almost-confirmation within the BBC article, where “a spokeswoman said that around six per cent of all JSA claimants receive a sanction, with the most common reason being the benefit claimant failing to actively look for a job”.

Failing to actively look for a job? What about the jobseeker who arrived at a Job Centre appointment nine minutes late – after attending a job interview – and was sanctioned for a month? There are many other accounts of similar idiocies and it seems likely that ESA may be contaminated with the same “sanction wherever possible” culture.

Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes said: “Disabled people are being sanctioned for things like missing interviews with advisers. How often do sanctions take into account the reality of disabled people’s lives? Interviews with advisers can clash with medical appointments and inaccessible transport can make attendance extremely difficult.”

But the DWP is sticking to its line: “Under the sanctions, benefits can be docked temporarily. Ministers said they were a last resort.”

Last resort? Or first opportunity? Expreience suggests the latter.

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10 thoughts on “ESA sanctions: When did the ‘last resort’ become the first option?

  1. Stephen Paul Tamblin

    This is getting out of hand how dare thay sanction the sick and vulnerable I have been diagnosed with vascular dementia and hernia and depression and panic attacks it is this government that is causing the problems

  2. mimismum

    That picture says it all. I have to face this nightmare after being put on hold for 15 months. I know damn well they will find me fit for work, they haven’t even asked my GP for an updated medical report. The GP said he was surprised by that and will do me one to take anyway.
    I have had this nightmare hanging over my head since labour bought it in,I am sick of the stress and worry it has caused. Of course they will find me fit for work, I can stand up cant i? I’m still breathing? then i am just a lazy dole scrounger… if i appeal will they then do me for fraud? I am frightened that they will decide to do that again. ( i claimed dla..after an accident in the 90s they moved the goal posts and decided they over paid me, when I went to appeal they told me they would investigate me for fraudulent claiming so i paid the money back and never claimed again)
    I am missing a family engagement party to go to this atos appointment which has caused upset in my family as no one truly understands or believes the government would do this to me. they don’t believe that atos are really doing wcas on a Saturday and think i am lying to get out of going to the party for some reason… as if! 🙁 boy are they in for a shock.
    I don’t know where to get help, or if its even worth bothering. if they are going to find me fit for work and then sanction me because i cannot get to the dole office to jump through hoops or become a slave for dole money then why bother?
    I cant work, I haven’t worked since 1990 when they found me useless and unemployable and a health and safety risk, and there is no point trying. I have cerebral palsy and scoliosis, and also degenerative disc disease in my cervical spine. I cant sit for long, cant stand for long, cant walk for long or unaided, I sleep a lot because the effort do even the simplest of tasks wears me out because of the muscle atrophy. Yet I look normal until I move or talk then it becomes obvious i am not normal and never have been,I have been on the scrap heap since my early 20s. I dealt with it and moved on and now just when they haven’t hammered enough they want to take away the last bit of independence I have and condemn me to that black hole in the picture.
    So, I don’t know if I can be bothered fighting, I am sick and tired of being punished for being born. What’s the point in putting myself through the pain and considerable effort to go to this test and perform like a circus elephant? I thought cruelty to animals had been outlawed in this country?

    1. amnesiaclinic

      Very sorry to hear of your sad case. It is appalling but I think you should send your story to the committee who are investigating the abuses into the disabled. The info is on Disability News. They might be able to help. Jayne Linney and others give practical help and accompany people in their area to the atos meeting. There is so much info out there to help with pain and stress and tension release. Tapping helps which is easy to learn and free and I find Dr Lissa Rankin’s free meditation on Mind Over Medicine invaluable for starting the day and self help and healing. Louise Hay has masses of free videos and affirmations but please, please don’t give up! That’s what they want. It’s about finding what works for you and gives you the strength to go on.
      Much love,

  3. HomerJS

    The more you look at all this, then the more obvious it becomes that the disabled and sick, especially those with mental health issues, are being deliberately targeted for sanctions. When you consider that these same people are the least likely to be able to cope with being sanctioned, and the most likely to react badly, then it becomes almost impossible to consider anything other than a deliberate attempt to kill people. I’m by no means the first person to suggest such a thing, but for those who may doubt it I would make another point. Never mind the evidence, just ask one question; how is it that IDS and the DWP can be accused of killing people, time and time again, and yet they choose never to do anything about it?

  4. jray

    “Failing to actively look for a Job” I went into the Neath JCP+ today,very swank,no Job Points or Phones….Another obstacle!

  5. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    The Work & Pensions Committee has called for an independent inquiry on benefit sanctions, which has, to date, been ignored by the government. There is also an urgent need for a moratorium on benefit sanctions as a result of the tragic death of David Clapson, 59; see and

    Not only are Jobcentre staff and DWP decision makers incompetent and medically unqualified, they are under severe pressure to strip claimants of their benefits.

    Matthew Oakley’s independent review of JSA sanctions was limited in its remit to improving the way sanctions were communicated to claimants. His recommendations are relatively cosmetic and minor; that’s why the DWP has agreed to implement them. On the whole, I’ve labelled his review a ‘whitewash’, for it ignores inappropriate sanctions, Jobcentre targets to take away benefits, and serious accusations by a whistle-blower of benefit claimant stitching-up. (See and

    In my opinion, Jobcentre staff are knowingly engaging in conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation. The government’s refusal to agree to an independent inquiry strongly suggests that the DWP is involved in a cover-up of egregious or inappropriate benefit sanctions.

    Full disclosure: Since January 2012, I have been reporting voluntarily to the UN’s human rights office, in Geneva, on the welfare crisis for Britain’s sick and disabled.

    (Montreal, Canada)

    P.S. According to the Work & Pensions Committee, a significant number of benefit claimants in the Work Programme have mental health conditions, and in my opinion it isn’t ethical to sanction them.


    The existence of sanctions off benefit and the rise of 70 per cent of starvation in the UK since 2010 cannot be co-incidence.

    Sanctions whether able bodied, chronic sick and/or disabled, seem to be in equal measure, from the experience of victims in many different blogs.

    I never got sanctioned. It just took 2 years for me to get neither disability living allowance or ESA work or support. I will now never get either.

    All I do is cause mirth in the young and alarm in the able bodied old, in dragging a taken apart mobility scooter (payment protection insurance misselling made possible) and trying to put it into me rust bucket car. No money for ramps or hoists.


    Because what is left of PPI misselling has to be my living expenses for 6 years, as women MPs kept pension payout at 60 from 2012, but us the public lost from 2013.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s not 70 per cent starvation – it’s 70 per cent malnutrition. People are forced to eat cheap food because it’s all they can afford, but it doesn’t nourish them and so problems arise.

  7. Pete B

    Yellow card,what next,a little yellow pointy thingy on our clothes.I bet IDS loves this idea,further stigmatise the poor.

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