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DWP sanctions system discriminated against disabled people for a decade

26 July 2019

The DWP’s benefit sanctions regime has been discriminating against disabled people throughout nearly the whole of the last decade, according to new figures secured by the Disability News Service (DNS).

The DWP figures, obtained through a freedom of information request, show that disabled people claiming JSA were more likely to have their benefits sanctioned than non-disabled people in all but two years.

The figures show this has been true for every year from 2009 to 2018, except for 2017 and 2018 when the figures for disabled and non-disabled JSA claimants were almost identical.

It has taken DNS nearly 18 months to secure the necessary data from DWP – which has repeatedly breached its legal obligations to provide the information – to show whether the discrimination continued after 2014.

DNS says that although the DWP figures are important in showing how the DWP appeared to repeatedly discriminate against disabled people for nearly a decade, there are now crucial concerns over its failure to show how many disabled universal credit (UC) claimants are being sanctioned.

Anita Bellows, a researcher for Disabled People Against Cuts said:

“Information given by UC statistics does not desegregate the data by claims, or by work capability assessment outcomes, but by ‘conditionality group’.

These different conditionality groups include disabled and non-disabled claimants, which makes it impossible to know the percentage of disabled people exposed to sanctions, or who are being sanctioned. 

What it means is that it is more difficult to know what is happening to disabled people in the benefit system and to hold the DWP accountable for its performance, at a time where the DWP is more and more resorting to exemptions in order to refuse answering freedom of information requests.”

For DNS source and full information see DWP sanctions system discriminated against disabled people for a decade, figures show available @ www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

DWP figures published in February this year show 86% of UC sanction decisions were due to failure to attend or participate in a work-focused interview

Disabled people placed in the work-related activity group are expected to attend work-focused interviews.

Given what DNS has discovered about sanctions over the last 10 years, it is extremely concerning that it is impossible to discover how many disabled UC claimants have been and are being sanctioned.

He added:

“DR UK wants 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.

DR 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.“