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DWP say sanctions early warning letters make little difference to the outcomes of claimants

21 May 2018

Parliamentary announcement on Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions Early Warning Trial.

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In October 2015, the Department for Work and Pensions announced that it would be trialling a new process for JSA sanctions in response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s recommendations to review the JSA sanction process.

The trial was delivered between April and September 2016 and involved 6,500 claimants. It tested an approach of adding an additional step into the sanction decision making process, by informing claimants through a ‘Sanction Warning Letter’ that, on the basis of information available, the Decision Maker intended to apply a sanction. Claimants were then given a further 14 days (on top of the standard 7 days they already receive before the decision is initially considered) to submit evidence of good reason for not meeting their conditionality.

The aim of the trial was to consider whether such an approach would have an effect on:

  • The volume of claimants that provide reasons for not meeting their conditionality requirements.

  • The volume of claimants sanctioned who request a Mandatory Reconsideration of the initial sanction decision.

  • The service received by the claimant and whether this represented value for money.

  • The effectiveness of the process as perceived by Decision Makers.

Results from the qualitative evaluation showed that there was support from staff for the intentions underpinning the trial, however evidence from interviews with staff suggested that in practice the trial appeared to make little difference to the outcomes of claimants.

The DWP does not consider that the benefits of the approach are sufficient to justify the extra time and cost it adds to the process and is now exploring the feasibility of an alternative process to give claimants written warnings, instead of a sanction, for a first sanctionable failure to attend a Work-Search Review.

The aim will be to conduct a small-scale proof of concept to obtain qualitative feedback from staff on this new process, followed by any subsequent tests. More details will be made available once DWP have progressed with the design work.

Commenting on the DWP early sanctions warnings trial report, Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Officer said:

“The DWP has not said how many of those in the trial who were sanctioned went on to successfully appeal that decision.

“Recent Universal credit statistics show that for while 72% of mandatory reconsiderations result in a sanction being upheld, significantly four out of five appeals are successful (81%).

“It is difficult to see how the trial can be properly evaluated without appeals success rates being considered.”