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Government responds to committee report on sanctions

11 February 2019

No respite for “victims” of counter-productive sanctions regime says Work and Pensions Committee.

Read the Government’s full response

The Work and Pensions Committee has published the Government’s response to its report on benefit sanctions.

The Government has agreed to investigate the effectiveness of reforms to welfare conditionality and sanctions. This will be internal with a view to seeing whether UC sanctions support/pushes claimants to search for work. As part of this it will specifically look at the effect on lone parents. It will publish its results in late Spring 2019.

It refuses to reduce sanction lengths to two, four and six months for first, second and subsequent failures to comply. It will also not lower the sanction rate for lead carers until research has been done. It also will not reduce the sanction rate for care leavers.

It refuses to use markers for care leavers or disabled people to monitor their experiences within the benefits system, including sanctions.

It will not exempt claimants assessed by a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to have limited capability for work or those who have an impairment or health condition, including mental health, and who present a valid Fit Note stating that they are unable to work. from conditionality and sanctions.

Instead it will “bring together key representatives from the sector to explore options further on how we engage claimants in provision and conditionality” and will explore the possibility of a Proof of Concept (PoC) which would be decided by a work coach, in certain cases where sanctions would not be applied. The Department will aim for this PoC to take place in Summer 2019.

Commenting on the Government’s response, Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field said:

“Our report laid bare the inhumanity of the Government’s sanctions regime, which it has pursued for years without ever stopping to check whether it works or what it is doing to the people it is meant to “support”. In response, the Government has failed utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter. It talks about reviews and “proof of concept”: it might want to take a look at the concept of not pushing disabled people and single parents - not to mention their children - into grinding poverty and hardship.”

Disability Rights UK says –

“We continue to strongly support the conclusions of the Work and Pensions Committee report that found that there is no evidence sanctions work and that they are “harmful and counterproductive.”

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.“