Sanctions against jobseekers and the sick have skyrocketed


The proportion of sanctions against people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) leapt up by around 19 per cent between July and September 2015, researchers from Glasgow University have found.

Perhaps more damningly, sick claimants on ESA are more likely to be sanctioned repeatedly than JSA claimants.

These rises should be set in the context of a continuing decline in monthly sanction rates, due to a fall in the number of claimants. JSA and Universal Credit claims fell by 12,980, while the number of ESA claimants exposed to sanctions – those in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) – has fallen as an increasing proportion of claimants are being put into the Support Group rather than the WRAG.

“The present government has pushed up the proportion of referrals which result in an actual sanction by about 19 percentage points,” wrote Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.

“Further investigation has revealed that this is due to an astonishing rise in the proportion of referrals for ‘not actively seeking employment’ (ASE) [“which actually means not seeking work in the way instructed by Job Centre Plus”] which result in a sanction, to 96 per cent, compared to about 50 per cent for all other sanctions.

It appears that the DWP’s decision makers are now doing little more than rubber-stamping ASE sanction referrals. [bolding mine]

“The impact on claimants is compounded by the fact that the proportion of ASE sanctions overturned is currently a tiny six per cent, compared to about 17 per cent for all other sanctions.

“This appears to be part of the same campaign to put pressure on unemployed people as the ‘claimant commitment’, which is compared by Frank Field in a new publication (reported in the Briefing) to a ‘prison manual’.”

Dr Webster’s briefing, The DWP’s JSA/ESA Sanctions Statistics Release, 17 February 2016, states that “there has been a sustained fall since November 2013 in the monthly rate of JSA sanctions before and after challenges as a percentage of claimants, to 4.28 per cent and 3.67 per cent respectively in the year to September 2015.

“The monthly rate of JSA sanctions before challenges is now stabilising at about 3.7 per cent, which is approximately the same level as the peak under the Labour government, although still well above the average from 2000 to 2010 of 2.81 per cent.

“No statistics are available for sanctions against claimants who have been put on to Universal Credit (UC) instead of JSA, but the best estimate is that there will have been a total of about 414,000 sanctions on unemployed claimants (JSA plus UC) before challenges, in the year to September 2015.

“The rate of ESA sanctions has also fallen, to 0.50 per cent per month before challenges and 0.40 per cent after in the year to September 2015, and is also stabilising. Total ESA sanctions were 29,000 before challenges and 22,251 after in the year to September 2015.

“Claimants are more likely to be sanctioned repeatedly on ESA than on JSA. During 2014/15… 1,042 JSA claimants were sanctioned ten times or more during the year. Of the sanctioned ESA claimants, over one quarter (27.8 per cent) were sanctioned more than once, and just over one in eight (13.1 per cent) three times or more.

“The proportion of sanction challenges which are successful is now over 70 per cent for JSA and about 50 per cent for ESA, but because of low rates of challenge (particularly for JSA), overall only about 16 per cent of JSA and 26 per cent of ESA sanctions are overturned.

There has never been clearer evidence that far more JSA claimants ought to challenge their sanctions. Not only are their chances of success better than 70 per cent, but they are unlikely to have to bother to go beyond the informal review stage to get a positive result.”

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10 thoughts on “Sanctions against jobseekers and the sick have skyrocketed

  1. Mr.Angry

    What depths can this government stoop to making sick people worse, beyond the pale whilst they swan around Westminster dining at subsidized restaurants, chauffered around in tax payers cars. Give me strength !!

  2. Dave

    According to this shameful government you are not sick but just think you are and you are unemployed because you are not working. Makes sense really to a conservative mind. ESA and JSA should never be lumped into the same category, only an idiot would say they are the same.

    1. wildswimmerpete

      Jobcentre+ should be prosecuted by Trading Standards as there aren’t any jobs on display. Those places are indeed merely sanction centres. There is no help on offer for those who aren’t actually unemployed but would like a job. When I
      recently enquired after any part-time jobs available for me I was literally shown the door.

  3. mohandeer

    It amazes me that most weeks in PMQ’s some Tory MP will stand up and claim x numbers of people have found employment and the number of people unemployed has dropped by Y number. No-one in the opposition benches stands up and thanks the honourable Tory(a misnomner if ever there was one)MP for the claimed facts and asks them if they could also tell the house how many of those no longer unemployed are under sanctions? As soon as you are sanctioned your name is removed from the unemployment register, that is the reason that at any given time the number of unemployed is misrepresented to exclude all those under sanction which can be as many as the overlap of sanctioned individuals will permit. These sanctions can be from one week to 3 months and every conceivable number in between. On any given day there will be people sanctioned for 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks etc. so that by the time you get to the month end people on 6 week sanctions to people on 1 week sanctions could indeed show a phenomenal drop in unemployment.
    Why does no-one ask the question of Tory MP’s misrepresentation of figures?

    1. wildswimmerpete

      Bear in mind the over 60s are encouraged to apply for Pension Guarantee Credit and then are taken off the claimant count as once on PGC you come under the Pension Service, not Jobcentre +

  4. Tony Dean

    Where is the “Duty Of Care” of claimants Iain Duncan Smith has stated the DWP takes seriously?

  5. Tim

    I’m not a stupid fellow by any means but have no idea what the heck I could do to look for work for 35-hours a week as some poor souls are these days. What could anybody find to do for seven hours a day for five weekdays? Or five hours a day, every day, including Sundays? Or whatever! Left on your own, with no guidance, how could you fill so many hours looking for work when you can apply for jobs these days with the click of a computer’s mouse button? If you’ve got to rely on freebie internet access at a library, where they haven’t been closed, you only get one hour of access a day if you’re lucky enough to be able to book a workstation. What could anybody in such circumstances do day in and day out, day after day, to “actively seek work” like a full-time job? Wear sandwich boards with “Gizza a job!” on them and walk the streets during the hours of daylight?

    Just think about it for a moment.

    Most days you have to dream up job-seeking activities and make job applications on your own, without help of guidance, for up to 35-hours a week. Is it any wonder so many people fail to satisfy the Jobcentre that they’re “active” enough? How could anybody, on their own, keep up a regime like that without slipping up and getting sanctioned? The whole system seems deliberately rigged to make people fail. Only IDS and Freud would have implemented so inflexible and unfair a system in which you get penalised VERY severely without warning, often without knowing why.

  6. Barney Turner

    Gosh – could the period mentioned (July-September) be coinciding with the run-up to 6- or 12- monthly Performance Reviews for JCP staff, perhaps?
    Or possibly staff “compensating” for the fact that they`ll be taking annual leave & therefore won`t be able to issue any sanctions while absent?
    It`s a great way to be perceived as “efficient & procedural” by meeting or exceeding targets, isn`t it?
    And handy for boosting said Performance Reviews to a high-rating, which means staff are then paid a performance bonus of approx. £300-£500, depending on their pay grade…
    FYI, even an inexperienced JCP staff member soon catches on to the fact that “doubt of Actively Seeking Employment” can be used as a basis for a referral for ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING they want to due to it`s ‘1-size-fits-all’/non-specific nature.

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