Tag Archives: jobseekers allowance

How unemployment sanctions are driving down the claimant count

Hundreds of thousands of sanction decisions last year have resulted in unemployed people being knocked off the claimant count.

There were almost 320,000 decisions to stop a person’s Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) benefit for “not actively seeking employment” in 2013.

And in the first six months of 2014 a further 125,000 sanctions have been applied, according to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP says the claimant count “includes all cases of claimants who are serving sanctions, provided the claimant continues to keep their claim live during the sanction period.”

However, this is not true for anyone sanctioned for “not actively seeking employment,” as their claims are ended by the DWP.

Dr David Webster, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow said:

“The most common reason for JSA sanctions is ‘not actively seeking work’, which does not mean what it says but that the claimant has not done exactly what they were told by their Jobcentre adviser, often for reasons beyond their control.”

The claimant commitment

To be considered “actively seeking employment” people must prove they are doing everything in the new claimant commitment.

Claimants have been told to apply for any jobs, including jobs they are not qualified for and would have no chance of getting in order to meet their claimant commitment.

Evidence submitted to the recent Oakley review into sanctions included many examples of people being unfairly sanctioned for this reason.

Examples include:

  • A single mother whose benefits (including her housing benefit) were stopped after it was decided she was “not actively seeking work.” She was under a training programme with a major retailer at the time.
  • An unemployed man in Scotland was sanctioned for “not actively seeking work” while he was at the bedside of his three month old son who was seriously ill in hospital following kidney failure.

Dr Webster said:

“The impact of the massive increase in this type of sanction under the Coalition has been multiplied by the huge increase in the length of penalty.

“Up to October 2012 the penalty was disentitlement, which lasted only until the claimant recomplied, which could be within a few days. Now there is always a 4-week loss of benefit for a first offence, and 13 weeks for a second.”

A version of this article was first published on NatalieLeal.blogspot.co.uk

What are benefit sanctions? Explainer

In October 2012 the government made the rules stricter for people out of work and claiming benefits. Since the new rules came into effect more people than ever before have been sanctioned.

What does it mean if someone is ‘sanctioned’?

Being sanctioned means your money is stopped.

People out of work and looking for a job claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. This provides £72.40 a week to live on. 16 to 24 year olds receive less: £57.35 a week.

A sanction is when an unemployed person is deemed to have broken their ‘jobseekers agreement‘. Since April this has been called the Claimant Commitment.

If they are deemed to have broken that commitment their Jobseeker’s Allowance is stopped for a certain period of time.

However, many people have been sanctioned for frivolous reasons. And a significant proportion of those sanctioned have successfully appealed against sanctions. The Guardian reported earlier this year that:

In recent months 58% of those who wanted to overturn DWP sanction decisions in independent tribunals have been successful. Before 2010, the success rate of appeals was 20% or less.

How long can you be sanctioned for?

A sanction lasts for a minimum of four weeks. That means at least a month with no money whatsoever. If you are sanctioned twice in the same year it will be for a minimum of thirteen weeks – so three months with no money at all.

At the other end of the spectrum the longest amount of time a person can lose their money for is three years.

This useful chart gives an overview of the sanctions regime.

jobseekers allowance sanctions

Why does this happen?

When someone starts claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance they sign an agreement. This document is either called a Jobseeker’s Agreement or a Claimant Commitment.

If the job centre decides you have broken one of the rules or not stuck to everything you signed up for they are likely to sanction you.

Here are some things a person can be sanctioned for:

  • Failing to apply for or accept a job that is offered
  • Failing to attend a compulsory training or employment scheme
  • Not applying for the required number of jobs
  • Not following a direction from a Jobcentre Plus adviser
  • Failing to attend, or arriving late for an appointment at the Jobcentre
  • Leaving a job voluntarily

A version of this post was originally published at NatalieLeal.Blogspot.co.uk

The invisible unemployed: “half of unemployed do not claim benefits” – so who are they?

Originally posted at NatalieLeal.Blogspot.co.uk

This chart from a report by Inclusion tells a story. Actually, it poses a lot of questions.

At the last count just under half of all unemployed people in the UK were not claiming benefits. That’s almost one million people and it’s going up all the time.

But where are these people? How are they surviving? And why are they not receiving any support?
As the chart above shows the number has been rising since the new sanctions regime started in 2012. Are sanctions to blame for the rising number of unemployed people missing from the claimant count?
These are questions I will be attempting to answer in the coming weeks and months.

Benefit sanctions data to be released for first time on DWP stats site

dwp stat_explore

The Department for Work and Pensions statistics site Stat-Xplore will publish data on sanctions  for the first time next month Continue reading Benefit sanctions data to be released for first time on DWP stats site