Yesterday the DWP released its latest statistics on sanctions. The BBC’s angle on this, undoubtedly suggested by DWP, was that there was a 19% drop from previous year in the number of sanctions.
After some confusion about the dates, it appears that the number of sanctions has fallen, from 894,357 sanctions between October 2012 and September 2013 to 724,138 between October 2013 and September 2014, but as the number of JSA claimants has also fallen, (from 17,228,101 to 12,832,849 for the same dates), in fact the percentage of JSA claimants sanctioned has risen from 5.19% to 5.64%.
More interestingly, the BBC does not mention sanctions of ESA claimants, and DWP would have had good reason not to attract attention to them. Those of us who watched the Work and Pensions Committee debate on the 4th of February will certainly remember Esther McVey giving evidence, and particularly her emphasising the small number of sanctioned ESA claimants, which she said was 0.6%, which represents 3,000 claimants. The Minister was once again being economical with the truth. In the 2 years covered, there was only one quarter when the percentage of ESA claimants sanctioned was 0.6%, between November 2012 and February 2013. For all other quarters, the percentage was higher, and for the latest that Esther McVey would have been aware of (September 2014), the percentage reached the unprecedented level of 1.71%, which represents 3,828 sanctioned ESA claimants. Knowing how ‘sanction-happy’ JobCentrePlus staff are these days, it is very likely that this number would have now reached 4,000 sanctions for ESA claimants per month.
Once again, DWP has shown itself to be a master in statistics manipulation and in the use of selective figures, which are given to the media without context or explanation, and the media are only too happy to oblige, publishing these figures without scrutiny. Although it was pointed out to Mark Easton that in fact, the percentage of sanctioned claimants has risen, it is unlikely that this correction will find its way onto the BBC.
For the latest statistics on sanctions: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-september-2014