Nearly one in five (18.4%) jobseekers were affected by punitive benefit sanctions in 2013-14, new analysis suggests.
Analysis of official Government figures by Dr David Webster, a researcher from the University of Glasgow, shows that 568,430 of the 3,097,630 individuals who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) during 2013/14 were sanctioned – with some seeing their benefits stopped more than once.
Furthermore, 22.3% of the total 8,232,560 individuals who claimed JSA between 2009/10 to 2013/14 (inclusive) have seen their benefits removed. Equivalent to 1,833,035 people.
The findings draw into question claims from DWP ministers, who insist only a “tiny number” of people are sanctioned and that they are only ever used as a “last resort”.
Statistically, the percentage of JSA claimants sanctioned each month stands at an average 6.5%.
However, according to the analysis, this headline statistic fails to account for the cumulative effect of benefit sanctions, which can last for a few weeks or as long as three years.
“If 5-6% of claimants are being sanctioned every month, the proportion will grow as time goes on”, says Dr Webster.
His analysis also reveals that 30.9% of individual JSA claimants sanctioned in the year to June 2014 were hammered more than once, and 12.5% three times or more.
It’s bad news for sick and disabled people too. Dr Webster writes: “Over the six years of the ESA sanctions regime from October 2008 to September 2014, 21.0% out of a total of 85,292 sanctioned claimants received more than one sanction, and 7.6% three or more”.
To add insult to injury, no pun intended, the proportion of ESA sanctions overturned at appeal has fallen from around 35% to just 20% – since the introduction of ‘mandatory reconsideration’ into the appeals process.
Dr Webster says there is a “disturbing possibility” that vulnerable sick and disabled people are “unable to cope” with the new appeals process.
Claimants who disagree with a decision on benefit entitlement are now required to ask the DWP to ‘reconsider’, before they can appeal to an independent social security tribunal.
The proportion of JSA sanctions challenged by claimants has also fallen from 33% to around 20-25%.
Dr Webster’s analysis also reinforces views stressed by other experts: the Government’s controversial Work Programme “continues to deliver far more JSA sanctions than JSA job outcomes”, he says.
He added: “Up to 30 September 2014 there had been 575,399 JSA Work Programme sanctions and 345,640 JSA Work Programme job outcomes”.