Growing Evidence DWP Staff Forced To Impose Benefit Sanctions, Says MSP

There is growing evidence that Jobcentre staff are being pressurised into imposing sanctions against benefit claimants, an SNP MSP has said.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under a Freedom of Information Request, reveal that the number of jobseekers facing benefit sanctions increased from 10% in 2010 to 18% in 2013/14.

Last week, the SNP called for an investigation of evidence suggesting DWP staff are pressurised into sanctioning people.

This followed under-Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell’s appearance at the Welfare Reform Committee in which he failed to address the issue.

Following the meeting, all four SNP members of the committee wrote to Esther McVey, the UK Minister of state for Employment, calling on her to command the Department for Work and Pensions to commission an independent investigation into evidence suggesting DWP staff are pressurised into sanctioning.

A recent PCS survey reveals how 82% of staff questioned felt that they were under pressure to refer people who could be sanctioned.

Inclusion Scotland’s Director of Policy Bill Scott has also told of DWP staff who have been warned that they will be disciplined because they have not imposed enough sanctions.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:

“The rise in the number of JSA claimants facing sanctions are a huge concern – and they add to growing evidence that DWP staffs are being forced to implement Westminster’s unfair sanction regime.

“David Mundell last week totally refused to accept evidence that staff at the Department of Work and Pensions are being pressured to impose sanctions on claimants.

“But the evidence is piling up: the PCS found 82 per cent of staff questioned felt they were under pressure to sanction, while Inclusion Scotland have told of staff who have been warned they will face disciplinary action if they fail to do.

“We have written to Esther McVey to demand that an extensive independent investigation is carried out and the findings made public on DWP. These latest revelations make the case for that investigation unanswerable.”