Charities have called for an urgent investigation into the Government’s flagship Universal Credit benefit and sanctions regime, as new figures reveal that over 250,000 people on the new benefit have seen payments slashed.
Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that a shocking 256,000 Universal Credit claimants were hit by adverse benefit sanction decisions between May 2016 and April 2019.
The data also reveals that 5% of Universal Credit sanctions have been for six months or longer.
The DWP insist that sanctions are only ever used as a “last resort” and that claimants are helped to understand what is expected of them in exchange for payments, otherwise known as ‘conditionality’.
However, today’s figures have led some to believe that too many sanctions are being imposed unfairly and unnecessarily.
From February 2019 to April 2019, 84% of all Universal Credit full service decisions resulted in a sanction, up 13% from November 2018 to January 2019.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) called for an investigation into the sanctions regime and a moratorium on sanctions while this is carried out.
CAS Social Justice spokesperson Mhoraig Green said: “The Citizens Advice network in Scotland helps hundreds of thousands of people every year and we have long raised concerns about cases where people have had their benefits unfairly sanctioned, leaving them without any income for a sustained period, causing them to require crisis support including foodbank referrals.
“Today’s statistics show a worrying trend of an increase in the proportion of people facing a sanction since the introduction of Universal Credit.
“People should never be left with no income at all as a result of a benefits sanction, there should be an urgent independent investigation into the sanctions regime, with a moratorium on sanctions during that period.”