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. https://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: https://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’.

 

Jun 082013
 

2.25 Million -But Why so many?

2.25 Million Jobseeker’s sanctioned
since Coalition came to office!

Are they serious?

These figures are truly earth shattering.

DWP figures which you can access here show that since May 2010 an astonishing 2,257,000 claimants on Jobseeker’s Allowance have had their benefits referred for a decision on whether to cut their benefits for a fixed length period.  The numbers of sanction referrals has rocketed from around 5,500 to 6,000 per month since 2000 right the way up to 2007, since then they have slowly increased but it is only since the Coalition took office that sanction referrals have sky rocketed to levels we have never seen before.  A study conducted by the DWP in 2006 showed that around 130,000 claimants in total were subject to sanction referral in a year.  These latest figures are seeing figures of over 110,000 in a single month.

From April 2000 to October 2012 there has been a total of 3,192,910 sanctions where a decision has been made over whether the claimant’s benefit should be stopped for a fixed period.  The fact that two and a quarter million of those sanction referrals have been recorded should be cause for serious concern as to the vigour at which they are being applied.

The DWP’s statistical footnote explains that ‘prior to April 2010, a Failure to Attend Advisory Interview attracted an entitlement decision. Since then, it has attracted a fixed length sanction of between 1 and 2 weeks.’  It is this kind of sanction which accounts for 1,150,670 of all sanctions – by far the largest number, this category has only come in to play since the Coalition took office.  487,980 reported failures to participate in the Coalition’s Work Programme are recorded since July 2011.  The fixed length sanction regime can last a longer than two weeks but the period of 1 to 2 weeks is what is recorded in the DWP’s notes.

These figures raise serious questions over the validity of the sanction regime.  It is simply incomprehensible that the rate of sanction should increase from 5,000 per month to over 100,000 purely because new conditionality has been built in to the claims regime. It should be remembered that these figures only relate to those claiming Jobseekers Allowance, the DWP has yet to publish full figures for the Employment & Support Allowance.

Questions should be asked as to whether it is the DWP’s privately contracted Work Programme providers who have simply become too ‘sanction happy’ in a bid to cover up their badly performing rates of placing the most ‘difficult to place’ claimants in to the workplace.  Claimants stand to lose their benefits for 1 to 2 weeks for failing to attend an advisory interview, in many cases their appeal rights are limited or not explained to them.  I can recall cases where claimants were sanctioned for the most bureaucratic of reasons.  In one case a claimant attended the Jobcentre for a full hour and a half in the morning happily going through all of his return to work options and was told he did not need to return in the afternoon to sign on at a desk which was a matter of a few metres away in the very same Jobcentre from where he was in the morning.  He was assured his signing details would be passed to the claims adviser and thought no more about it.  he later learnt he had been sanctioned for not turning up in the afternoon.  He ended up having to appeal – a process which took months.

One has to wonder if these sanctions are being imposed as a way of reducing the numbers who appear on the DWP’s payment database; which is needless to say closely linked to the data collected for Government unemployment statistics. Once a claimant has been removed from the payment database there is no telling how long it will be before the claimant reappears as a statistic – despite it being only a matter of weeks without benefit it can take months to adjust government statistics. 

Here’s the DWP figures:

 

 

Month                    

Claimants sanctioned 

May-10
Jun-10
Jul-10
Aug-10
Sep-10
Oct-10
Nov-10
Dec-10
Jan-11
Feb-11
Mar-11
Apr-11
May-11
Jun-11
Jul-11
Aug-11
Sep-11
Oct-11
Nov-11
Dec-11
Jan-12
Feb-12
Mar-12
Apr-12
May-12
Jun-12
Jul-12
Aug-12
Sep-12
Oct-12

61.020
80.410
84.870
84.170
89.180
88.490
87.250
67.670
73.500
80.080
89.130
62.540
58.970
54.260
48.830
51.000
50.740
52.700
61.930
52.140
65.390
75.520
86.310
80.560
98.220
88.840
110.470
96.270
97.040
79.500

Total 


2,257,000

A further DWP report issued in 2012 tells us how the sanction system operates in practice:

“If a claimant fails to undertake any activity required as a condition of their participation on the Work Programme without good cause, then a doubt may be raised against their claim. These doubts are referred to the DWP Sector Decision Makers (SDMs). Once the SDM has made a decision on whether to sanction or disallow/allow a referral, they enter their decision on a system called DMAS (Decision Making and Appeals System). The decision is also sent back to the Jobcentre Plus office for entry to LMS (Labour Market System) and JSAPS (JSA Payment System) which then makes the appropriate changes to the actual payment to the customer. ”

So it would appear the LMS records are updated upon sanction and will will have the effect of quickly ‘adjusting’ the unemployment figures – very handy.

Now lets compare those sanction figures with previous years using the same DWP data sources:

Month                    

Claimants sanctioned 

May-00
Jun-00
Jul-00
Aug-00
Sep-00
Oct-00
Nov-00
Dec-00
Jan-01
Feb-01
Mar-01
Apr-01
May-01
Jun-01
Jul-01
Aug-01
Sep-01
Oct-01
Nov-01
Dec-01
Jan-02
Feb-02
Mar-02
Apr-02
May-02
Jun-02
Jul-02
Aug-02
Sep-02
Oct-02

5.760
5.540
5.190
5.900
5.570
5.980
6.400
5.090
5.860
6.190
6.830
5.440
5.630
5.940
5.950
5.910
4.970
6.110
6.080
4.700
4.920
5.630
6.050
5.940
6.500
5.200
7.140
6.150
5.760
6.130


Total


174,460

Isn’t it astonishing that under the Coalition sanctions have soared to two and a quarter million compared with 174,460 over the same time period between 2000 and 2002? Yet the Coalition are always telling us how they’re reducing the numbers claiming Jobseekers Allowance with figures of approximately 1.5 million – they’ve seemingly sanctioned more than are currently claiming!

One also has to wonder how the rushed off its feet DWP is physically able to deal with this many sanctions, especially with all the appeals and reclaims it has to process – it all points to systematic chaos within the Department.

with thanks to the continously brilliant Nick for more go to

https://ilegal.org.uk/thread/7123/work-programme-working

Twitter: @Mylegalforum