Feb 242014

This article draws unashamedly on David Webster’s excellent briefing following the release in February 2014 of sanction statistics for JSA and ESA claimants by DWP. David Webster, who is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Glasgow University, also presented very strong and documented evidence to inform the enquiry of the Work and Pension Committee into sanctions in March and November 2013. http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/david-webster-evidence-to-hc-work-and-pensions-committee-20-nov.pdf

The briefing on which this article is based can be found here: http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf

It explains in great detail the trends in sanctions, in reasons for sanctions, in appeals etc. since 1997 which, for David Webster, is evidence that Iain Duncan Smith is behaving unlawfully on a large scale.

Number of sanctions: The latest figures released by DWP through its new software (Stat-Xplore) show that the number of sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants has reached unprecedented levels.  Between 22/10/2012 and 30/09/2013 (49 weeks) 527,574 JSA claimants received a sanction. The figure for ESA claimants over a complete year is 22,840, also a record number. Although the rate of sanctions for ESA claimants is much lower, it is rising and stands almost at 0.,5% per month (compared to 6% for JSA claimants in the 3 months to 30/09/2013). 

Length of sanctions: What has also changed is the length of sanctions. Although ministers claimed that hardly anyone would be subject to the new 3-year sanctions, the number of JSA claimants who had received a 3-year sanction rose to 962 by 30 September 2013, up from 700 by 30 June 2013.  Claimants’ ‘failures’ such as not attending or being late for advisory interviews,  non-availability for employment, which used to attract  1 or 2 week sanction, are now penalised with a 4 week sanction 

Reasons for sanctions: The main reasons for JSA sanctions are failure to participate in training/employment schemes and not ‘actively seeking work’ while the majority of ESA claimants are being sanctioned for not participating in work-related activity (75%), and the remainder for missing or being late for an interview.

Work Programme: The Work Programme continues to fail JSA claimants, as contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have produced job outcomes:  394,759 sanctions and 198,750 job outcomes. There is also evidence of maladministration of referral forms which has lead to a huge increase of cancelled referrals. What it means is Work Programme contractors are making mistakes in their paperwork on a big scale.

Appeals and reconsiderations:  The success rate of appeals taken to an independent tribunal is quoted as being 58%, even by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. This figure represents an average over 12 months, which fails to reflect the strong and clear upward trend of successful appeals. Tribunals are now upholding almost 9 out of 10 of appeals against DWP. This confirms the evidence that sanctions are applied unreasonably.

Unfortunately, only about one in 50 sanctioned claimants appeals to a Tribunal – 2.44% in the latest 3 months. The vast majority of claimants find the process too difficult.

To conclude, a note added by David Webster to his briefing regarding the role of sanctions in creating destitution:

‘There is clearly a lot of confusion about the role of sanctions in creating destitution. The current regime under which sanctioned claimants lose all their benefits and, unless in an arbitrarily defined ‘vulnerable’ group, are not allowed even to apply for discretionary ‘hardship payments’ for the first two weeks, has been in force since October 1996. What has changed dramatically in recent years is the number and length of sanctions. Prior to the Jobseekers Act 1995, sanctioned claimants were entitled to a reduced rate of Income Support or Supplementary Benefit as of right from the start, assessed on the normal rules’.



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  5 Responses to “Sanctions: IDS behaving unlawfully on a large scale: Almost 9 out of 10 of sanction appeals against DWP are upheld by independent tribunals”

  1. I was dismissed from my last position, I waited until my last payment was recieved and applied for benefits. I was told this process would take 28 days. On day 21 I recieved a letter stating they were not happy with the way I left my last job. They imposed a 65 day sanction on the whole of my benefit. I feel this a harsh punishment as starvation only takes approximately 35-40 days. I have no money for food, bills or other essentials. I have not had a shower for nearly 3 weeks now as I have no gas. I cannot apply for a hardship payment until Tuesday (day 31 of the sanction). I will not receive any other payments for another 2 months as my next payment day (in 28 days) falls within the current sanction and I will have to wait 28 days after that for my next payment day outside the sanction. This equates to 90+ days with no income. Is this new system of benefits actually benefitting anyone?

  2. I have successfully won all my internal appeals against DWP (thank God did not have to deal directly with any of the private contractors/yobs). I have 3 Uni Degrees but over 40yrs old but it is amazing that I found the process winding rather than complex and also they do not accept e-mails only letters that they tend to loose (I had to fight to get a receipt from the office every time I submitted docs/certificates). They tried to dock/reduce my benefits/JSA as I did not apply for a cleaner’s/admin job which would leave me worse off than on benefits, tried to claim that a lodger was a partner and also lied about sending letters to me and changing sign on day and when I turned up they claimed I missed the initially arranged interview date (these are the lengths they are going to dock people’ s benefits). DWP staff have blood on their hands no matter who employs them – I am in the NHS that despite its problems is one of the few public orgs that treat people with dignity.

    I have been through the Tribunal Process which upheld 3 out of the 4 complaints against the DWP – unfortunately you do not get interest on your dues by the crooks and it took a year before the case was heard.

    Best of luck
    Keep fighting on


    The civil service values have been radically eroded:
    • be treated with respect
    • be given the right information
    • be dealt with on time
    • access services easily

  3. How can IDS keep on breaking the law and get away with it, this is supposed to be a free country yet he has 10,000 deaths on his hands of ESA claimants. Why oh why is this nothing of a man getting away with it???????????????????????????

    • Fact is, no one cares about their fellow man any more, it’s the I’m alright Jack attitude – UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS TO THEM.
      WHAT SICKENS ME: is the fact that the UK send millions overseas in foreign aid for starving people and yet the govt are starving their own people!!!! Until people unite they will keep doing what they are doing – sadly – and the gov know that people don’t care, so they can carry on regardless.

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