25 March 2015
The Work and Pensions Committee have recommended that a full review be undertaken into the use of benefit sanctions.
The recommendation was originally made in January 2014 and rejected by the government. It has been reissued today, as the approach is being adopted across the Jobcenter Plus (JCP) network.
The committee notes that; “There is currently no evidence on whether the application, or deterrent threat, of a four-week sanction makes it more, or less, likely that a claimant will engage with employment support or gain work.”
Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:
“Benefit sanctions are controversial because they withhold subsistence-level benefits from people who may have little or no other income. We agree that benefit conditionality is necessary but it is essential that policy is based on clear evidence of what works in terms of encouraging people to take up the support which is available to help them get back into work. The policy must then be applied fairly and proportionately. The system must also be capable of identifying and protecting vulnerable people, including those with mental health problems and learning disabilities. And it should avoid causing severe financial hardship. The system as currently applied does not always achieve this.”
Commenting on the report, shadow Work and Pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said:
“This report has shone a spotlight on the government’s failure to deliver a fair, proportionate and effective social security system. It shows how Iain Duncan Smith’s chaotic mismanagement of benefit sanctions has forced families to rely on food banks to feed their children. The government should accept the recommendations of the report to improve this failing system.”