If you don’t do one of the things listed in your Claimant Commitment, such as arrive at the jobcentre on time, and you don’t want to be sanctioned, then you need to give a ‘good reason’. The omnipotent DWP has an approved list of ‘good reasons’, so yours better be on there. The list was included in a letter from the minister, Alok Sharma, to the Work and Pensions Committee, and David Webster draws attention to it in his most recent commentary on benefit sanctions. David observes that, ‘It is notable that ordinary public transport failure is not mentioned as a ‘good reason’. This is a frequent source of grievance for claimants.’
(This letter also lists the rules about different situations that could entitle you to a temporary break in your work-search and work-preparation requirements.)
David goes on to draw attention to another letter that exemplifies the complete lack of empathy, or even common sense, in DWP thinking. He writes:
A further letter from Alok Sharma… contains the following statement in response to the Committee’s request for him to consider exempting people who are sick or disabled from any form of conditionality and sanctions:
‘Evidence shows that when provision or support is voluntary the take up is extremely low and has had limited success. For example, the ESA Support Group has no mandatory conditionality and less than 1% move off the benefit and into work every month. As such, we believe that to impose a blanket policy which exempts all disabled people from any form of conditionality would be doing this group a great disservice.’ The Support Group are people who have been found by a WCA to be unfit for work either now or in the foreseeable future. No inference at all can be drawn from their experience about the relevance of conditionality to people who are currently unfit but may be in the future.
Never mind how sick you are, work must be your goal!
Here is David Webster’s full sanctions report: 18-11 Sanctions Stats Briefing – D.Webster
He observes that the available evidence shows that sanctions for people on UC continue to be given much more frequently than for people on JSA, though the DWP has still failed to provide any statistics for the now 86% of UC claimants in the full digital UC system.
The report includes a round-up of recent findings and research, and an explanation of the rules governing debt repayment, which shows how much more severe these are under UC than under the old system.