The Work and Pensions Select Committee has written to employment minister Alok Sharma, over concerns about how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report and present official benefit sanctions statistics.
The cross-party group of MPs says official DWP figures “consistently understate the number of sanctions applied for UC, JSA and ESA claimants by updating figures to reflect the post-appeal status” – decisions to sanction claimants that are overturned on appeal.
“This means that every time a sanction decision is overturned at appeal, it no longer appears in the number of sanctions applied”, the Committee claims.
In a press release published on the Parliament website, the Committee continues: “The pre-appeal figure for ESA sanctions was, in one month, as much as 57% higher than the post-appeal figure published by the Department”.
MPs are now demanding an explanation from the DWP and have called on the Department to “publish pre-appeal figures routinely so that the true picture can be understood”.
DWP data also shows that “in February 2018 1,108 Universal Credit claimants were still subject to a sanction despite having moved into in the “Working Enough” or “No Work-Related Requirement” conditionality group”, usually because they are recognised as being too unwell to work or look for work.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee. said: “What is the point of applying sanctions to people who cannot work and are not expected to look for jobs?
“The DWP have yet to make the case that benefit sanctions work to get people into employment and it’s difficult to see how they can have that affect for people who are ‘working enough’ or cannot work.
“Benefit sanctions are the only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated, and the picture DWP paints of the policy doesn’t match the troubling stories we’ve heard.
“In the wake of the NAO’s damning assessment of Universal Credit, we more than ever need the facts behind the claims.”
This article was last updated at 04:05 (GMT) on 18 July 2018.