The UK statistics watchdog has asked the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure its statements on jobseeker sanctions are “objective and impartial” following a series of complaints by leading experts.
In an indictment of current DWP methods, the UK Statistics Authority’s (UKSA) chief, Sir Andrew Dilnot, has said he will write to the top statistician in the department requesting that it publishes much more data and gives the public a clearer understanding of how it is imposing sanctions on jobseekers.
Sanctions are used by civil servants to penalise jobseekers when they are alleged to have broken benefit rules. Over the last decade those punishments have become increasingly severe. As of October 2012, jobseekers can be stripped of their allowance for up to three years.
Guardian research earlier this week showed that the government had significantly understated the impact of its benefit sanctions regime.
In the last few years, the proportion of jobseekers given sanctions each month has hovered between 4% and 6%. Using those monthly sanction rates – the only officially published rates available – ministers have claimed that only a small minority of jobseekers have been affected by the government’s increasingly severe welfare policies.
Using the proportion of all those penalised over the course of 12 months shows that each year, one in six (17%) of all jobseekers have their payments stopped.
The difference between the two proportions occurs because jobseekers are often unemployed for longer than one month and so the annual rate captures the cumulative effect of the government’s policy.
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