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Disability Rights UK on the impact of sanctions

13 January 2015

Disability Rights UK featured in the televised Work and Pensions select committee evidence gathering on the impact of benefit sanctions on January 7th

MPs heard from us how more people on JSA are being sanctioned than finding a job. Job Centre Plus are ignoring their own guidance on safeguarding leading to people with mental health conditions being suspended from benefit payments for  three months at a time.

Our members were able to inform our submission and help us to provide clear measures in mitigation such as establishing how claimants need to be communicated with.

We presented evidence from the research sector showing that sanctions may be driving people off benefits but they are not driving them into work. No one appears to know what is happening to those sanctioned but it is known that more disabled people are making use of food banks, loans and having to make hard choice over whether to eat or pay a fuel bill.

We said there were serious failings in the scope and application of the safeguards, which were introduced in 2000 following the death of a man with schizophrenia.

The coroner in that case concluded that “neglect by the Benefits Agency had contributed to the death and suggested that the Benefits Agency should have special rules for those suffering from mental illness”.  

We highlighted in our evidence to the inquiry that there are a number of problems with the safeguards that were introduced in 2000. The rules only apply to claimants of ESA, not those claiming jobseeker’s allowance, many of whom will have learning difficulties or mental health conditions.

We also warned the committee that records on claimants’ vulnerability do not appear to be accessible to all relevant DWP staff, and “are not enshrined in legislation”.

Fear of sanctions is not the key to reducing unemployment but is more likely to act a lock on even seeking help with back to work support.

You can view our testimony here and read our evidence here.