Minimum length benefit sanctions are ‘setting people up to fail’ and pushes unemployed people further away from the world of work, figures released by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) suggest.
Figures released by the CAB on Tuesday, show that unemployed people who have had their Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) sanctioned under the current system are left ‘distracted from job-hunting as they have to focus on putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head’.
Benefit sanctions are also pushing people into debt, which in-turn is having a detrimental impact on their health and making it even more difficult for them to spend time looking for a job, the CAB say.
The charity claims to have spent over £7 million in supporting their clients in appealing JSA sanctions decisions at tribunals and have witnessed a sixty per cent increase in problems caused by the tough new benefit sanctions regime, which was introduced by the coalition government in October 2012.
According to the CAB, of the 100,000 food bank vouchers handed out by the charity last year, sixteen per cent were due to people having their benefits sanctioned.
The CAB has called on the government to implement the ‘more responsive sanctions model’ used in Universal Credit, which the charity claims is ‘more focused on getting claimants back on track with their job-hunting rather than the often more punitive approach of the current system’.
Under the new benefit sanctions system in Universal Credit, Jobcentre staff would be able to use a more ‘proportionate’ approach to sanctioning claimants, rather than the often disproportionate minimum four-week period currently in use. Benefits could be sanctioned for as little as a week under the new system, the CAB say.
Some of the CAB’s key findings include:
- 1 in 4 Citizens Advice clients with a JSA sanction problem had dependent children
- 1 in 4 identified as being disabled of suffering from a long-term health condition
- 1 in 6 also had a debt problem
- 1 in 10 had issues with rent arrears or threat or reality of homelessness
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“The minimum four week sanction is setting people up to fail and creating a barrier which can stop them from looking for work. Four weeks is a long time to go without money to get by and people are struggling to make ends meet.
“The success rate of sanction appeals reveals a culture of ‘sanction first and ask questions later’. This is not only ineffective and a huge waste of money but also has a devastating effect on thousands of people’s lives.
“People need a system that can take into account their situation, set suitable work search requirements and where necessary apply sanctions at a level that won’t limit their chances of employment. Whilst it is vital that people receiving taxpayers’ support do their utmost to find work, the model needs to work and not make it harder for claimants to find a job.
“To date, Work Programme contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have successfully helped people find work. Combined with Citizens Advice’s latest figures this paints the strongest picture yet that the system is not working as it should.”