More sanctions, longer sanctions – Universal Credit strikes again

Dundee foodbank

David Webster’s latest meticulous analysis of the sanctions statistics makes for grim reading. We had thought that sanctions were on the wane and that the DWP were mainly relying on the pernicious impact of the fear that they had induced – as well as turning their attacks onto the sick and disabled; but Universal Credit appears to opening the doors to a new and nasty return. Sanction numbers are not nearly as high as their peak in 2013-14, but they are rising. Worse, they are significantly higher for people on Universal Credit than those on JSA, so as Universal Credit is rolled out to more and more people in more and more areas, we can expect to see sanction numbers increasing. This difference is true for people of all age groups. As if that were not bad enough, the impact of a UC sanction can be much more prolonged than that of a JSA one. Under UC, hardship payments are loans that have to be repaid off future benefits, effectively stretching the period of reduced rations to two and a half times the nominal sanction length. And any further sanctions received during the sanction period no longer run concurrently but are added onto the end. UC also allows sanctions to be applied for the first time to low paid or part time workers earning less than the equivalent of 35 hours a week on the minimum wage. So far a much lower proportion of UC sanctions have been successfully challenged – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

ESA sanctions (overwhelmingly for not doing work related activities) are much less common, but there is a disproportionate number of long sanctions. While the most recent figures suggest that the DWP has learnt not to keep discriminating especially hard against people with mental health and behavioural problems, the proportion of sanctions for pregnant women is particularly worrying.

The statistics also show a significant fall in the proportion of eligible people applying for JSA, from an estimated 69% in 2009/10 to 56% in 2015/16. This is only to be expected, as people struggle to survive on next to nothing rather than face the worries and humiliations of the jobcentre. The problem is particularly bad among young people.

David Webster also points out that:

The UK Government response to the Public Accounts Committee Inquiry on benefit sanctions has still not been published, despite being due in April.

A new research paper has provided hard evidence that poor quality work can be worse for you than being unemployed. This was reported on by the Financial Times, which added that this would likely also worsen productivity [and thus the employers’ bottom lines!].

A recent study has exposed the huge decline in local welfare schemes in England. It includes the observation that this will not save money as the costs of the necessary later interventions will be much higher.

You can read David Webster’s full report here: 17-08 Sanctions Stats Briefing – D.Webster As he notes, the DWP’s statistics collection and publication still falls far short of the requirements of the United Kingdom Statistics Authority

The picture shows Dundee’s Trussel Trust Foodbank

One thought on “More sanctions, longer sanctions – Universal Credit strikes again

  1. At least now the sheer cruelty of Universal Credit is being exposed.
    It’s a ridiculous system, deliberately engineered from the first to force the unemployed to take up the zero-hours and low-hours part time work. Under the old JSA scheme ( if registered for full-time work ) they didn’t have to take any work under 24 hours a week fixed hours. So naturally this took out all the 15 – 30 hours, zero-hours etc, as they couldn’t provide a fixed base of 24hrs+ per week.
    Frustrating for Mr. Duncan-Smith and the DWP, who thought that the half the problem was unemployed people being ‘too choosy ‘ about what work they would do.
    So with Universal Credit, all the previous regulations and protections were swept away completely. Enforced by a much stricter sanction system, and even making Hardship Benefit a repayable loan to further drive home the point.


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