Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has today announced the end of three-year benefit sanctions under Universal Credit.
In a speech at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation on the ‘future of the labour market‘, Amber Rudd said: “Under the old system, coming off welfare into an entry level low paid job often led to a net loss for claimants.
“UC is based on the principle that work will always pay more than being on benefits.
“And Universal Credit offers a new level of personalised support. Claimants have access to a dedicated Work Coach who builds an understanding of their needs and strengths, to offer them the best possible advice and opportunities.
“Claimants also have more options to interact with the jobcentre, online, by phone or in person.”
She continued: “And at the heart of this support is an agreement that the claimant commit to certain activities to improve or maintain their employment prospects, such as looking for work or doing work experience.
“However, I want to ensure that the penalties for not meeting these conditions are proportionate, particularly for the most vulnerable.
“So I am announcing today that I will end financial sanctions for welfare claimants that last for 3 years.
“Such sanctions were rarely used, but I believe they were counter productive and ultimately undermine our goal of supporting people into work.
“In the future, the longest length of a sanction will be 6 months.
“And I am undertaking an evaluation of the effectiveness of Universal Credit sanctions, to consider whether other improvements can be made.”
Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Labour has long been calling for the government to scrap its punitive sanctions regime.
“Six months is still a very long time to leave someone without any income at all. It is not just the individual who is affected, but their family too.
“There is clear evidence that sanctions and excessive conditionality do not help people into sustained employment. They also cause stress and anxiety for many and are one of the key reasons that people ask for help at food banks.
“Labour will scrap the Conservatives’ sanctions regime for good. We will deliver personalised employment support and invest in skills and training to create the decent jobs that people need.”
SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Neil Gray MP said: “The Tory government’s punitive sanctions regime is pushing people into poverty and crisis – and unfair sanctions have risen sharply under the botched roll-out of Universal Credit.
“This review is long-overdue, and while it is better late than never, it must put an end to unfair Tory sanctions, which are punishing the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.
“People cannot be expected to live on fresh air – and there is no evidence that the Tory sanctions regime has been beneficial for claimants or helped people back into work.
“The UK government should follow Scotland’s lead, where the SNP government is building a social security system based on dignity and respect, and successfully helping people into work with voluntary schemes such as Work First Scotland (WFS) and Work Able Scotland (WAS).
“The Employment Support Programmes in Scotland are the exact opposite of the Tories’ callous social security approach, proving to be successful with helping people into work.
“The UK government should look to Scotland to see how to deliver a fair and just social security system”.