The Work and Pensions Select Committee has today (15 January) announced the second of three evidence sessions into controversial benefit sanctions.
The Tory-led coalition government introduced a new benefit sanction regime in October 2012 for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and December 2012 for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants.
Claimants who fail to adhere to tough new benefits conditionality rules run the risk of having their payments docked or removed, with four weeks being the average length of suspension. However, repeat offenders can see their benefits slashed for up to three years.
Opponents of the system argue claimants are being ‘sanctioned’ for punitive and unfair reasons, such as a man who had a heart attack during a sickness benefit test only to be sanctioned for failing to complete the assessment.
Another man received a four-month sanction for failing to attend a work placement as a charity shop, even though the charity had told him he was no longer required.
The purpose of the committee’s inquiry is to explore:
- The local authority perspective, including the potential impacts of sanctioning on local welfare assistance provision.
- The potential health impacts of sanctioning, particularly in relation to ESA claimants.
- The application of conditionality and sanctions to single parent claimants.
- Jobcentre Plus (JCP) staff and managers’ attitudes and approaches to conditionality and sanctioning; the impact of JCP benefit off-flow targets and sanctioning rates.
- The destinations of sanctioned claimants.
- Possible reforms and alternatives to the current sanctioning system.
The committee will hear from the following witnesses on Wednesday 21 January 2014:
- Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
- Lois Race, Service Manager, Derbyshire County Council
- Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, Durham University
- Fiona Weir, Chief Executive Officer, Gingerbread
- Ben Robinson, Head of Policy, Community Links
- Steve Hughes, Head of Economic and Social Policy, Policy Exchange
- Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, and Helen Flanagan, Vice-President DWP, Public and Commercial Services Union
- Professor David Stuckler, University of Oxford
Anyone wishing to watch the evidence session can see it live on Parliament TV from 9:30am on Wednesday 21 January.