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
Single parents with children under the age of five face the threat of ‘punitive’ benefit sanctions, due to the introduction of tough new rules and over-stretched jobcentre’s, the charity Gingerbread has warned.
Jobcentre staff have been given new powers to remove benefits from single parents with young children in receipt of Income Support, otherwise known as sanctioning, should they fail to adhere to strict new requirements which may include attending more jobcentre appointments, participation in training programmes or work experience placements, depending on the age of their child(ren).
Gingerbread say the new rules ‘focus too heavily on sanctions’ in what the charity has described as a ‘tick box exercise’, rather than providing single parents with tailored support which would enable them ‘to get work ready’.
Failure to comply could result in single-parents having their Income Support payments cut by 20 per cent a week for an ‘indefinite period’. Sanctions will be lifted if and when those parents comply to the requirements imposed upon them or are able to prove their benefits should not have been cut in the first place.
Gingerbread claim that they are already hearing from single parents with children as young as six months who have wrongfully had their benefits sanctioned after being told they must begin looking for work.
The charity has drawn attention to the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants who have wrongfully been hit with benefit sanctions and are having those decisions overturned following appeal (nearly four in 10 or 38%). Gingerbread has expressed concerns that 423,000 single-parents in receipt of Income Support could be subjected to the same fate.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said:
“Many single parents do want to work before their child reaches school age, some decide that’s not right for their family, and others have little choice financially. Whenever parents decide they’re ready to go to work, they should get support that helps them do just that; but we’re concerned that the new rules will become little more than a tick box exercise with punitive sanctions attached.
“We know that single parents are already often wrongly sanctioned and, based on the calls our helpline is already getting, we fear that this situation will only get worse as these new rules are introduced.”
Gingerbread have called on the coalition government to ensure that jobcentre staff fully understand the new rules to reduce the probability of single-parents wrongfully having their benefits slashed. They are also urging the government to consider investing in ‘voluntary tailored support and training for single parents’.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee has recently recommended that an independent review be carried out in order to determine whether some benefit claimants are having their payments docked inappropriately.
Referring to the use of benefit sanctions against JSA claimants, chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Dame Anne Begg said:
“The number of JSA Sanctions are at a 12 month high, and probably the highest ever on record. Yet, we don’t even know if these Sanctions are working. There have been many examples of people being sanctioned and not knowing why. If the aim of a sanction is to change peoples’ behaviour then people need to know why their benefits have been stopped otherwise it is just a punitive punishment which is trying and save money.”
Source – Welfare News Service 29 April 2014
> The following was received by email. I’ve omitted the writer’s name and a couple of identifying locations – you never know who might be reading.
I am emailing in connection with the Archbishop of Westminster’s recent acknowledgement of the unfair JSA sanctions being imposed on thousands of people throughout the UK during the last year or more.
I am one of these statistics myself, having been sanctioned in early Dec 2013 for ‘limiting myself‘ as regards my job seeking. This was in the same week I had attended and BEEN SUCCESSFUL at a part-time job interview!
I also believe that, as I had just started on the Work Programme in the very same week that there was more going on than met the eye. I had to attend to sign on at a different office ( XXXX Road, – linked with ZZZZZ JC+) and the new advisor immediately started becoming intimidatory towards me because I wasn’t logging my job searches on the Universal Job match system online (hand writing it instead – which is my right).
I informed her that I had researched this and that it wasn’t obligatory to document jobsearches online. She was apparently attempting to find any reason to impose a sanction on me and stated that I hadn’t applied for 10 jobs in the last fortnight according to my contract.
This contract had been created without my consultation when I originally started signing on at ZZZZZ in Dec 2012. I stated this but it fell on deaf ears.
I have been in the process of following the complaints procedure ever since, having now written 3 complaint letters none of which has even been acknowledged never mind responded to – including one to the Director of Operations.
I am not signing on now, having found more part-time work this month and exceeding the 16hr limit. I intend to continue with appealing my unfair discrimination however regarding the 4 week sanction which left me without a penny to live on for *7 weeks in total*. The Hardship Payment application wasn’t processed until mid Jan 2014 (the sanction dated back to 23/11/13).
I applaud the Bishop for speaking out against this disgusting legislation and practice imposed by this uncaring coalition government. I believe this is a violation of people’s basic human rights – to be paid the barely sustainable JSA to be able to eat, pay bills and attempt to find work in an employment climate that is unfavourable for many, particularly when we are often discriminated against just for being unemployed in the first place nevermind the dearth of suitable jobs.
Shame on Cameron, Osborne, Duncan-Smith and the rest of them! These people have absolutely no idea what it means to live on the barest minimum, so I suppose it is no surprise to really expect them to give a damn.
Of course my case is just another piece of evidence of our broken welfare system. The sooner this is addressed the better. I feel for those who are reduced to food banks or worse in these unjust and unequal times. I happen to be fortunate enough to have a small amount of savings not to have to do so.