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DWP should immediately stop benefit sanctions imposed on disabled people or those with a health condition say MPs

07 November 2018

The Work and Pensions Committee says that there is no evidence that the DWP’s benefit conditionality sanctions system works and that “worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.”

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In its Benefit Sanctions report the Committee highlights that lone parents, care leavers and people with a disability or health condition are disproportionately vulnerable to and affected by withdrawal of their benefit. 

The MPs say that:

“Until Government can show unequivocally that sanctions actually help to move these claimants into work, it cannot ‘justify these groups' continued inclusion in the sanctions regime’."

The Committee also highlights that:

“Of all the evidence we received, none was more compelling than that against the imposition of conditionality and sanctions on people with a disability or health condition. It does not work. Worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.

We recommend that the Government immediately stop imposing conditionality and sanctions on anyone found to have limited capability for work, or who presents a valid doctor’s note (Fit Note) stating that they are unable to work, including those who present such a note while waiting for a Work Capability Assessment. Instead, it should work with experts to develop a programme of voluntary employment support.”

Disability Rights UK says

“We want a system that genuinely supports the many disabled people who want to work to keep their job when they become disabled  - and, for those out of work, to get into work, or set up their own business, with the tailored and flexible support they need to do so.

Instead people are subject to a regime that seems to be finding coercive ways to get people off benefits when their health or other critical factors clearly make this inappropriate.

Disability Rights UK will continue to argue for replacing benefits sanctions with effective support for both disabled people and employers, to make a reality of the Government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap.“

Among the Committee’s other recommendations are that:

  • the DWP should urgently evaluate the effectiveness of reforms to welfare conditionality and sanctions in achieving their stated policy aims;

  • higher level sanctions should be reduced to two, four and six months for first, second and subsequent failures to comply, until the Department can present robust evidence that longer sanctions would be more effective at moving people into work;

  • develop a standard set of questions that work coaches routinely ask claimants when developing their Claimant Commitment to elicit information that identifies what, if any, easements should be applied conditionality requirements;

  • review and improve the information made available to claimants on easements available, including online and in jobcentres; and

  • write to all jobcentres to encourage them to co-locate with local support services, particularly but not restricted to, those with expertise in homelessness and mental health.

  • sanctions must be a last resort and claimants should be able to challenge the decision before it is imposed.