Citizens Advice has called for further improvements to the sanctions system, as today the Independent review of the operation of Jobseeker’s Allowance JSA sanctions validated by the Jobseekers Act 2013 is published. The review found that the DWP and Jobcentre Plus need to improve communication with claimants who have been sanctioned, particularly those who are vulnerable.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
The JSA sanctions regime can create more barriers for people already struggling to find work. Communications failures mean sanctioned claimants often don’t know they’ve been sanctioned, why, and what next steps are available to them. We see huge numbers of people whose ability to make ends meet has been shattered when they’ve been sanctioned, in some cases forcing them into debt or to a foodbank.
There’s been a 60 per cent increase in people with JSA sanction problems coming to Citizens Advice Bureaux since the extension of the minimum sanction period from one week to four in October 2012. One of the knock-on effects often experienced by clients is that the sanction led to their housing benefit being stopped, when the rules say it shouldn’t be.
Jobcentre Plus and DWP have a lot of work to do to make sure people know where they stand and where to turn for help. The effectiveness and proportionality of the JSA sanctions regime needs to be addressed, including a reduction in the current minimum four week sanction period. People who can work should be able to and receive the support they need to gain employment. That’s why we need a system that sets people up to succeed, and doesn’t put them in an impossible position where dealing with a sanction means it’s harder for them to look for a job.
Citizens Advice has found that many JSA claimants are already struggling to make ends meet. From October to December last year:
- 1 in 4 Citizens Advice clients with a JSA sanction problem had dependent children
- 1 in 4 identified as being disabled of suffering from a long term health condition
- 1 in 6 also had a debt problem
- 1 in 10 had issues with rent arrears or threat or reality of homelessness
Source – Citizens Advice, 22 July 2014