“Fundamental review” of benefit sanctions needed
In its latest report ‘Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review’ published today, the House of Commons Work and Pensions committee has called for a broad, independent review on the use of welfare benefit sanctions to investigate whether they are being applied fairly.
Responding Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy for Homeless Link, said:
“We welcome the call for a full, independent review into benefit sanctions.
“Our research indicates that homeless claimants on Jobseeker’s Allowance are ten times more likely to be sanctioned than their non-homeless counterparts. Six in ten of the charities we represent also report that the proportion of their clients having their benefits stopped or reduced has gone up since 2013.
“Although Government and job centres on the ground have been working with us to make the system function more fairly, this issue will only be truly addressed by a fundamental review.”
What does the evidence tell us?
In 2013, research by Homeless Link found that:
31% of homeless people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) had been sanctioned, compared to just 3% of typical claimants.
In our evidence to the committee, we also highlighted that the same report found that nearly a third of services reported homeless people being sanctioned while facing poor mental health, learning difficulties or substance misuse problems. The majority of services also reported clients being pushed into debt, food poverty and survival crime as a result of sanctions.
A survey of homeless services published this month indicates that this issue could be getting worse. Nine in ten accommodation services reported that their clients had been affected by sanctions, up from 68% in 2013. While, 61% of services reported that the proportion of clients being sanctioned has increased since 2013.
What has the committee called for?
Key recommendations include:
- Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) should establish a broad, independent review on conditionality and sanctions to investigate whether they are being applied fairly and proportionately
- The Oakley Review recommendations should be implemented in full
- Evaluations should take place of whether financial sanctions are effective
- Strict conditions attached to getting benefits should only be targeted at the small minority of people who are not well-motivated to find work
- Distinctions should be drawn between those who are genuinely not actively seeking work and those who have made significant efforts but may have still not satisfied conditionality
- DWP should review Employment and Support Allowance in relation to the Work Programme
- Hardship payments should be made available from the point of someone being sanctioned
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