Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Jobseekers Forced To Living On The Streets Because Of Sanctions


Jobseekers have been forced onto the streets under the Tories ’ cruel benefit sanctions regime, a devastating report has warned.

Tough rules which see claimants punished for missing just one job centre appointment are inconsistent and have become a postcode lottery, the Public Accounts Committee found.

Sanctions “have increased in severity in recent years and can have serious consequences”, say MPs as they urge officials to launch a review.

Committee chairwoman, Labour MP, Meg Hillier said: “Benefit sanctions have been used as a blunt instrument by Government.

“Sanctions and exemptions are being applied inconsistently, with little understanding of why.”

Jobseekers can be slapped with sanctions which can see their handouts withdrawn for a variety of “offences”.

They include turning down positions, missing appointments and failing to look for work.

A typical sanction lasts four weeks and means a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant loses around £300.

The benefit is worth up to £73.10 a week.

The Department for Work and Pensions imposed 400,000 sanctions on benefit claimants in 2015, the most recent statistic available.

The impact of sanctions “can be worse for people with housing-related barriers to employment”, says the committee.

“For some people, their main barrier to moving into employment is the struggle to find, or keep, a permanent roof over their head,” adds its report.

“The charity Crisis raised concerns about sanctions exacerbating these housing-related barriers to employment, and even causing homelessness in some cases.”

Ms Hillier said: “Suspending people’s benefit payments can lead them into debt, rent arrears and homelessness, which can undermine their efforts to find work.

“A third of people surveyed by the charity Crisis who were claiming Housing Benefit had this stopped in error because of a sanction – an appalling situation to be faced with.”


Her committee calls on officials to use sanctions “carefully” and “protect vulnerable people from unnecessary hardship”.

It adds: “There is an unacceptable amount of unexplained variation in the Department’s use of sanctions, so claimants are being treated differently depending on where they live.

“The Department has poor data and therefore cannot be confident about what approaches work best, and why, and what is not working.

“It does not know whether vulnerable people are protected as they are meant to be.”

Sanctions can also be imposed for “honest mistakes”, MPs say.

They urge the DWP to warn claimants rather than punish them for their first sanctionable offence.

“The Department for Work and Pensions (the Department) told us there will always be variation,” says their hard-hitting report.

“This does not mean that current levels of unexplained variation are acceptable.

“It is important that the use of sanctions is fair and consistent - and the Department has not analysed why some job centres use sanctions so much more than others.

“Job centres may be applying different standards.”

The committee set the DWP a 10-month deadline to report back on protections for vulnerable people.

Today’s report follows a scathing verdict in November by Whitehall spending watchdog the National Audit Office.

It found sanctions varied “substantially” across the country, with some Work Programme providers making more than twice as many referrals as others dealing with similar groups in the same area.



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