Jobcentre sanctions

The Guardian reported yesterday that Jobcentres are being set targets for the imposition of sanctions, despite assurances to Parliament that no such targets existed.  Yesterday I was at a forum where we were told about  examples of sanctions in Clydebank, including

  • a claimant sanctioned for one month for confessing that he had not looked for work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day;
  • a claimant sanctioned for a month for appearing five minutes late for interview;
  • a claimant sanctioned because the firm he had been referred to had not received a referral and sent him straight back to the Jobcentre to check.

I’ve not done well with the DWP  tabtool on this topic and in the process of trying to milk the statistics I’ve ended up with more on the floor than in the bucket.   David Webster’s helpful comments, below, explain about where to find the statistics I missed.

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5 comments

  1. David Webster

    Thank you for this very useful posting about what has become a national scandal.
    In fact the DWP does report how many sanctions are being imposed. This information is on its Tabtool at http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=tabtool. This shows that in the year to October 2012, 778,000 sanctions were imposed; on average, 4.23 per cent of all unemployed claimants were sanctioned each month. This is three times the level in the year to October 2005, when there were 244,000 sanctions, equating to an average of 2.44 per cent of JSA claimants each month. This monthly rate of course results in much higher percentages of claimants being sanctioned over time. A recent Freedom of Information request to DWP (2012-5156, available at http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/PQ_FOI/foi/2013/2013-5156.pdf) forced them to admit that of all people who had claimed JSA in the 5 years to March 2012, no less than 19 per cent had been sanctioned. Sanctioning has gone completely crazy. Does anyone really think that one fifth of unemployed claimants are so irresponsible that they deserve to be reduced to destitution?
    To get the monthly figures, go to the webpage given above, scroll down and click on ‘Click here for JSA Sanction & Disallowance Decision Stats’. Then, in the first box, select in turn ‘Referrals for varied length sanctions’, ‘Referrals for fixed length sanctions’ and ‘Referrals for entitlement decisions’ (you will have to go through the whole process three times and then add the results for these three types of sanction together). On the next screen, in the box ‘Analysis’, click on ‘Thousands’. Then in the next box, the vital thing is to select ‘Time series’ – this will mean you get the month-by-month figures. Carry on down, selecting the particular information you want from the boxes. You will end up with month-by-month figures for every month starting with April 2000 and currently taking you to October 2012. Statistics for November 2012 onwards, showing the results of the even crueller regime introduced by Messrs Duncan Smith, Hoban and Freud from 22 October 2012, will be published in May.
    Incidentally, there is nothing new about HM Government cheating claimants out of unemployment benefit on spurious grounds. For instance, in the late 1980s there were plenty of cases where claimants, when asked what wage they wanted, were told that they could not state ‘the going rate’ but must name a figure. They would then be told that this wage was too high and they were placing an unreasonable restriction on their availability, so they would lose their benefit. Plus ca change!

  2. David Webster

    Thanks Paul, but the position is better than you say. You can indeed use the DWP Tabtool to get the number of actual sanctions, not just referrals for sanction. Follow the steps set out in my previous comment. Then, after choosing ‘Time Series’, in the next box select ‘Whether a decision was Adverse’. Carry on down and this will give you the actual number of sanctions. You can also get the numbers of cases in which the claimant was not sanctioned, or where they were successful on internal appeal to DWP (‘Reconsideration’), or in very rare cases on formal appeal to HM Courts & Tribunals Service or its predecessors. Lots of other information is available too.

    However the DWP Tabtool is extremely cumbersome and time-consuming to use and it is not surprising that people have difficulty with it. An example came last week in the House of Commons debate on 19 March on the government’s Jobseekers Back to Work Bill which retrospectively legalises their illegal sanctions in relation to unpaid work placements. One of the few Labour MPs to make a worthwhile contribution to the debate (and one of only 44 Labour MPs to vote against the Bill), John MacDonnell (Hayes & Harlington), said (col. 857) ‘In 2009, 139,000 jobseeker’s allowance claimants were sanctioned. By 2011, the number had nearly tripled to 500,000, and it has risen again this year.’ However, in this calculation he only included ‘varied length’ and ‘fixed length’ sanctions, and left out ‘entitlement decisions’. These latter are dominated by sanctions for failing to ‘actively seek employment’. This is one of the most popular methods by which DWP cheats claimants of their benefits – for several examples see the recent Scottish CAB Briefing at http://www.cas.org.uk/publications/voices-frontline-jsa-sanctions. Once these sanctions are added in, John MacDonnell’s figures become: 2009, 442,920 sanctions; 2011, 668,800 sanctions. As noted in my previous comment, in the last 12 months for which data are available, this total had risen further to 778,000. In other words, the Tabtool is so opaque that even someone like John MacDonnell who to his credit does understand the nature of this benefits scandal is led to seriously understate the problem.

    • Sara Watson

      Hello. I’m posting here because I’m trying to obtain some data for a paper investigating the political consequences of increasing punitiveness in the UK welfare system. I first wanted to thank David for his post about the DWP Tabtool; it helps a lot! I was also wondering if David (or any readers of this blog) know if it is possible to use the Tabtool to obtain time series figures on sanctions by Local Authority District? It appears you can get current figures by LAD, but I can’t quite work out whether/how one can obtain these over time. Also, would anyone happen to know if time series figures are available for sanctions relating to the Income Support and Incapacity Benefit/ESA programs? I’m interested in how much sanctions have increased in programs other than JSA. Many thanks!

  3. sonia bagheri

    Let assume for the sake of children human rights argument that the both decisions made by the respondent were correct and I was fit to work and I was not seeking employment actively.

    The question is that can a lone parent who is fit to work and “unwilling” to actively seek employment be denied benefits without breaching the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child?

    In other words, Can the state force a lone parent to work by denying her/him access to the social security.

    The answer is negative as it is the parent’s fault not the child’s fault. The child should be protected in any case. For this very basic rights, a lone parent used to receive the Income Support up to the child’s sixteen birthday. It is of course a good idea to help a lone parent to come out of poverty by training and employment. But the government does not provide help and assistance but to deny them access to social security.

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as the CRC, CROC, or UNCRC) is a human rights treaty to which Britain is a signatory. This treaty is setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.
    The Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the right of children to social security in article 26, stating that:
    1. States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social
    insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realisation of this right in accordance
    with their national law.
    2. The benefits should, where appropriate, be granted, taking into account the resources and the
    circumstances of the child and persons having responsibility for the maintenance of the child, as well as any
    other consideration relevant to an application for benefits made by or on behalf of the child.
    Article 27
    1. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical,
    mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
    3. States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures
    to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need
    provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

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