Benefit Sanctions: Strategy for civil society

The Public Law Project (PLP) and the University of York have published a short-form strategy for civil society organisations working to improve the system.


  • A new review of the legality of the scheme
    “…evidence that the sanctions regime has discriminatory effects on particular groups…evidence that the system’s results are counterproductively ineffective at achieving its stated aim of encouraging claimants into work, and its potential human rights and equality implications”
  • A forum for sharing frontline experiences
  •  An information campaign on claimant commitment & challenging sanctions
  • Press the DWP for more and better data

Download: ‘Benefit Sanctions:Strategies for Civil Society‘ – (5 page pdf)

The PLP  also offer support to those supporting claimants challenge Benefit Sanctions, they can be contacted via:

Claimant Commitments (CC) are the core DWP method to impose benefit sanction based conditionality, the PLP has created a website to support Universal Credit claimants with CCs: ‘Universal Credit: Sanctions and your claimant commitment’ @


Reminder that ALL Benefit Sanctions should be scrapped without exception and in perpetuity, anything else is to defend sanctions as ALL are punitive.


Sanctions for the poor, runaway rewards for the rich
It’s time to end sanctions and review the balance of rights and duties across society.

Sanctions for the poor, runaway rewards for the rich

Confirmation: No Benefit Sanctions applied in July 2020?









New UC claimants now get warned which “benefits will end [permanently] if you or your partner makes a claim for Universal Credit, even if the claim is not approved”

When making a new UC claim online, the warning below is now shown:

If you already get other benefits

You should check how applying for Universal Credit will affect your other benefits:

Find out how tax credits and other benefits affect each other

Find an independent benefit calculator

Universal Credit replaces these benefits:

Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
Housing Benefit
Income Support
income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

These benefits will end if you or your partner makes a claim for Universal Credit, even if the claim is not approved.

You understand that if you or your partner make a claim, any benefits you get now that are replaced by Universal Credit will stop. You will not be able to submit a new claim for the benefits that have stopped.
I have read and understand

Should people claiming legacy benefits move to Universal Credit?
“As with any benefit change, there will be winners and losers, and those who are worse off on Universal Credit may be better off waiting for the introduction of Transitional Protection”

Universal Credit: legacy benefits run-on starts today

Screenshot_2020-08-03 If you already get other benefits - Universal Credit






Confirmation: No Benefit Sanctions applied in July 2020 – [ True or False? ]

Have benefit sanctions more or less been suspended from July 2020, despite the DWP saying it would be reintroducing benefit conditions and sanctions by reintroducing new Claimant Commitments (CC)?

Since July, have not heard of any benefit sanctions being applied to either JSA or UC claimants, through online benefit forums and social media.

One example that confirms CCs have not been updated is from a claimant on the reddit ‘DWPhelp‘ forum, to quote:

“Is anyone else still waiting for a call to discuss an updated claimant commitment? It says that I have to wait until i’m contacted…”
r/DWPhelp – ‘I still haven’t been contacted since July 1st‘ – August 3rd, 2020

It is possible the above claimant was given the generic CC issued to new UC claimants during the Covid19 lockdown.

At a Work and Pensions Committee meeting on Wednesday 22 July 2020 the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey said there is going to be a
light touch element of claimant commitment” with the DWP not be “actively seeking to impose sanctions or similar” and that sanctions would be “very rare”.

One reference to “light touch” is for Universal Credit (UC) claimants, in the ‘All work-related activity group‘ with earnings at or above the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) are not subjected to work search or work availability requirements. AET is tied to the JSA personal allowance, which is currenly £74.35 a week age 25 or over.

So either Coffey’s reference to “light touch” only applies to claimants who meet the “Administrative Earnings Threshold” (AET) as just one possible “element” of a Claimant Commitment and by definition these paid workers risk of benefit sanctions would be “very rare”, or an equivalent “light touch” is being applied to all JSA and UC Claimant Commitments and UC claimants in the ‘All work-related activity group‘ with no earning or below the AET? If so this would imply all JSA and UC claimants and their Claimant Commitments do not include any mandatory work search or work availability requirements, which would be exactly the same as when sanctions got suspended for three months to July 1st 2020?

Benefit Sanctions are used as a last resort?

More cycnically use of the words “very rare” could just be a rehash of ‘benefit sanctions are used as a last resort’, the DWP turn of phrase that has been in use for nearly a decade. Afterall it was used by Peter Schofield, Permanent Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions at the Committee meeting less than one minute before Coffey said sanctions would be “very rare”.


The AET is outlined in ‘Advice for decision making: staff guide, Chapter J3: Work-related requirements’, to quote:

“Monthly earnings

J3233 [See memo ADM 6/18] The work search or work availability requirement must not [UC Regs, reg 90(5)] be imposed where the claimant has monthly earnings, or if the claimant is a member of a couple, the couple combined monthly earnings, that are equal to or more than the following amount multiplied by 52 and divided by 12

1. for a single claimant, £5 plus the applicable amount of the JSA personal
allowance for a single person aged 25 or over or

2. where the claimant is a member of a couple, £10 plus the applicable amount
of the JSA personal allowance for a couple where both members are aged 18 or over.

The reference amount applicable to a claimant or joint claimants is referred to as the
“Administrative Earnings Threshold”


References to ‘Light Touch conditionality regimes

Supporting claimants in the light-touch regime via

Update 3/8/20






How to challenge and keep ESA, when found ‘fit-for-work’, pending an appeal? What about a ‘late’ appeal?

Last week the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimant Michael Connor won his own appeal against the DWP, that allows an ESA claimant found ‘fit-for-work’ to keep getting ESA payments pending an appeal.


Previously the process was to ask the DWP to undertake an internal review of the FfW decision, called a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ (MR), [which the DWP has no deadline to complete] then make an appeal to an Independent Tribual if the MR outcome did not change the original FfW decision.

I have been found  ‘fit-for-work’, what should I do‘?

The suggestion now is when an ESA claimant is found ‘fit-for-work’, they should:

[1] request a  ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’


[2] “at same time” file your appeal

More at: “esa and mr

Get local help and support to submit your ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’  and appeal via

Can I make a late request for ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’?

Below is a quote from CPAG on making a request for a Mandatory Reconsideration “within 13 months of the original decision”, exactly how this relates to the above decision is unclear and once DWP guidance is published or updated, details will be published here.

CPAG wins breakthrough case as operation of late mandatory reconsideration scheme ruled unlawful
“The correct position, as declared by the UT, is that where a claimant makes a mandatory reconsideration request at any time within 13 months of the original decision, she will, if dissatisfied, subsequently be entitled to pursue her challenge to a tribunal”
CPAG – ‘CPAG wins breakthrough case as operation of late mandatory reconsideration scheme ruled unlawful‘ 04 August 2017


Challenge a benefit decision (mandatory reconsideration)

If you think your ESA decision is wrong

Appealing an ESA decision after a mandatory reconsideration


Connor, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Work And Pensions [2020] EWHC 1999 (Admin) (24 July 2020)

Unfit for work? Fair trial rights means benefit pending review

Quash the law preventing welfare rights appeals
On 4th December 2019 we successfully raised £7,510 with 410 supporters in 28 days

Staffordshire law graduate takes DWP to court over benefits delay






DWP Secretary of State @theresecoffey expects #BenefitSanctions to be “very rare” under new Claimant Commitment “light touch” regime. Plus new Safeguarding arrangements for ‘vulnerable’ people.

Safeguarding vulnerable people: how DWP learns lessons from serious cases – Work and Pensions Committee

Watch and listen to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey say how she expects Benefit Sanctions to be “very rare”, under a newer “light touch” Claimant Commitment  regime. (11:13 mins) Or is “very rare” just another Orwellian version of the of the DWP’s usual ‘benefit sanctions are used as a last resort‘ (10:18 mins), as  said Peter Schofield, Permanent Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions just before Coffey spoke?

Further coverage of the Committee meeting:

DWP introduction of further Safeguarding measures, such as ‘Case conferences’ and contact with other employment support agencies, the NHS and Police.

Benefit Safeguards – policy issues


Source: Subject: Safeguarding vulnerable people: how DWP learns lessons from serious cases – Work and Pensions Committee
Wednesday 22 July 2020 Meeting started at 9.30am, ended 11.21am



ESA claimants to get choice to stop DWP telling GPs to not issue ‘fit-notes’, as new ESA1, ESA50 and UC50 forms to go “live from mid-August” (21/7/20 update)

Today the DWP confirms new Employment Support Allowance ESA50 ‘Capability for work questionnaire‘ and ESA1 application forms will go “live from mid-August

Full background on the infamous DWP ESA65B letter going to claimant’s GPs telling them to stop issuing ‘fit-notes’:


Claimants to get choice to stop DWP telling GPs to not issue ‘fit-notes’*, as ESA1, ESA50 and UC50 forms due to change mid-April 2020 – but today DWP use #covid19 to further delay these 2018 legal requirements – *Using the ESA65B letter


Universal Credit: Mirror says DWP “finally scraps” the ‘5 week wait’ for first payment – Q: Does it? A: No

[ Always use a Benefit Calculator before claiming Universal Credit and or seek independent advice, Citzens Advice also offer a DWP funded ‘Help to Claim’ ]

Should people claiming legacy benefits move to Universal Credit?
This means that some households may gain in the short-term but lose out in the long term. Everyone is unique. Personal advice is needed to see if a household is better off on Universal Credit
Policy in Practice – ‘Universal Credit: legacy benefits run-on starts today‘ – July 22, 2020

Below is an extract of the amendments made to the DWP ‘is it for me‘ page on understanding Universal Credit (UC), which the Mirror claims “finally scraps” the UC ‘5 week wait’ for first payment. However, the DWP amendments below make no reference to new claims for UC that do not include any existing claim to “income-based JSA (JSAib), income-related ESA (ESAir) or Income Support (IS)” or for “contribution-based [New Style] JSA / ESA“.

Since the coronavirus lockdown came into effect on 16 March 2020, the DWP has seen 3.2 million individual UC claims. There are predictions of a similar spike in claims in the coming months due to companies going into administration, redundancies and limited employment opportunities, especially in the lead up to and because of the ending of the ‘furlough’ Job Retention and Self-Employed income schemes ending in the Autumn.

The first essential is to accept the reality that millions of jobs are at risk
Tax Research UK: ‘From furlough to meltdown is a matter of months‘ – July 19, 2020

The vast majority of new claims will still have to wait 5 weeks for there first payment.

Fact check:

millions of people who have lost their jobs as result of this crisis remain subject to the five-week wait
Universal Credit: Legacy benefit claimants to be given extra cash when they move to the new system‘ – inews – 20 July, 2020

Just last week the National Audit office report on ‘getting to the first UC payment‘ highlighted how many newly unemployed delay claiming out of well founded “fear” of UC,  this delay will be added to the financial distress caused by the 5 week wait that has not been scrapped.

“Our stakeholder consultation also identified a level of fear around applying for Universal Credit, with some people worried about how they will cope, having heard about bad experiences from friends, family or through the media. In a situation where people are already in financial distress, delayed claims can exacerbate the pressure they are under”
Universal Credit: getting to first payment‘ – July 10, 2020 – National Audit Office

These changes appear to be trying to act as an ‘incentive’ to claim UC by claimants of ‘legacy benefits’ (JSAib, ESAir and “contribution-based JSA/ESA”), though UC has far stricter conditionality attached to it than ‘legacy’ benefits. For instance, JSA does not include the default expectation to spend 35 hours per week on Work Search activities.

Currently ‘legacy’ JSA and ESA benefit claimants are not being paid the extra £20 coronavirus UC ‘uplift’, so this new “2 weeks’ worth of” additional cash (run-on) and the ‘uplift’ may convince many on JSA or ESA to claim UC, but the ‘uplift’ is due to end March 2021, so in the long run many will be financially worse off.

In summary, this is not an end to the ‘5 week wait’, but an attempt to bring ‘legacy’ claims into the much more punitive orbit of UC.


“Building on the Autumn Budget 2017 announcement that Housing Benefit claimants will receive an additional payment providing a fortnight’s worth of support during their transition to Universal Credit, the government will extend this provision to cover the income-related elements of Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support. This will be effective from July 2020, and benefit around 1.1 million claimants. ”
Budget 2018 – 29 October 2018

Run-on payments

From 22 July 2020, if you are receiving income-based JSA, income-related ESA or Income Support, and either:

  • choose to claim Universal Credit, or
  • a change in your circumstances means you need to claim Universal Credit instead

you may receive up to an additional 2 weeks’ worth of those payments.

This is a one-time payment and does not have to be paid back.

If you are eligible for it, it will be paid automatically. You do not need to contact DWP to receive it.

It will not affect the amount of Universal Credit you receive.

If your payments of these benefits included any additional payments for partners and/or premiums, these will also be included in the payment. Any deductions from your payments will be applied unless they would have ended during that 2-week period.

If you also receive contribution-based JSA/ESA, this will be included in your additional payment. However, your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by the amount you get from contribution-based JSA/ESA.

If you continue to receive contribution-based JSA/ESA whilst on Universal Credit, this will be converted into New Style JSA/ESA. Your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by the amount you receive from New Style JSA/ESA.”

Is it for me?

Accessed 20/7/2020 (saved version of ’20 Jul 2020) – earlier ‘cached’ version of ‘12 Jul 2020 02:37:04 GMT





Benefit Sanctions suspended for Work and Health Programme on 15 July 2020

Today the DWP issued “Temporary provider guidance for use during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic only” for the Work and Health Programme (WHP), which states:

“The Secretary of State has temporarily suspended work preparation requirements (including interviews), work search requirements and availability requirements, and their related sanctions.

Providers should suspend any mandation of participants to activity and raising compliance doubt referrals, while maintaining support to participants.”
Published 15 July 2020 ‘Work and Health Programme (COVID-19) provider guidance

Original guidance covering WHP Benefit Sanctions and mandating work related activity.


2.18 Expansion of the Work and Health Programme – The government will provide up to £95 million this year to expand the scope of the Work and Health Programme in Great Britain to introduce additional voluntary support in the autumn for those on benefits that have been unemployed for more than 3 months”
A Plan for Jobs – 8 July 2020

Notes: Original referral and participation was mandatory for ‘Long Term Unemployed’ (LTU), all references to LTU has now been removed from ‘Chapter 2: Participant identification, eligibility and referral‘ (COVID-19) provider guidance. Original WHP provider guidance Chapter 2.





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‘Bombshell’ report lays bare the misery of Universal Credit chaos
“We’re calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped and replaced…Should government refuse to scrap Universal Credit, Unite strongly demands that government commits to:~

End benefit sanctions for all claimants and abolish plans to introduce in-work conditionality”

Monday 23 September 2019


“Between 1913 and 1919 and again between 1930 and 1989 there was no requirement to take any action to seek work other than to register as unemployed at an Employment Exchange/Jobcentre and therefore be able to be offered a job by employers or officials.)” – November 2019 (.docx) Benefit Sanctions Briefing by David Webster [emphasis added]

“The submission is concerned with the system of punitive benefit sanctions which has been built up in the UK social security system since 1986″
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 5 – 16 November 2018′
Evidence submitted by Dr David Webster‘  (pdf)


News on Benefit Sanctions

|2010 | 2011 |2012 |2013 |2014 | 2015 |2016 | 2017 |2018 |2019 |






#Workfare: Chancellor’s £128 million Plan to “triple” 6 week and 6 month no wage work-experience placements. Plus the @UKLabour ‘Charter Against Workfare’

In the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs‘ there is £111 million to triple the number of no wage Work Experience (WE) ‘Traineeship’ placements and £17 million to Triple ‘sector-based work academies’ (SBWA) WE placements. Traineeship WE can last up to six (6) months for young people aged 16-24 year olds. SBWA WE has no age based criteria and can last for six (6) weeks.

For the first time employers will not only get free forced-labour, but they will get £1,000 “per trainee”. Currently ‘Traineeships’ are touted as “a course with work experience that gets you ready for work or an apprenticeship“. However, the Traineeships criteria has now been expanded to include Social Security claimants who have a ‘Level 3’ qualification, which bizarrely includes University Diploma students and an “advanced apprenticeship”.

Important note: Traineeships are for people claiming Social Security benefits and those who claim no benefits. SBWA includes #BenefitSanctions for not attending ‘training’ elements and for ‘misconduct’ when undertaking the zero wage workfare experience placement.

To help maintain the UK no wage, low skill and low wage economy, employers will also get £2,000 for hiring a new ‘apprentice‘ under 25 and £1,500 for 25 and over. Employers are being incentivised to exploit young people by creating a traineeship and SBWA #workfare workforce and then ’employ’ them as an ‘apprentice’ paying just £4.15 an hour wage or as employees on a ‘minimum wage‘ of £4.55 an hour (under 18), £6.45 (18-20) or £8.20 (21-24), rather than paying them all at least the real living wage of £10.75 (Greater London) or £9.30 outside London

Section 16(3)(e) of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 includes powers to make ‘Work Experience and ‘Work Placements’ mandatory, but the DWP has is not using these powers. Why should the DWP use powers to make forced labour workfare mandatory, when in the last few years activists, orgs and campaigners have shown no or very little interest in Traineeships and SBWA workfare? The DWP has also sought to keep workfare issues under the radar by stopping to collate and publish statistics on “work experience starts” since 2017. Added to this is how naming and shaming of employers exploiting forced-labour ended years ago.

In essence Civil Society is colluding with workfare and interest has only been sparked when the Tory Government mentions it plans to triple funding, begging the question of why it remained unchallenged in recent years?

Half a million work experience and training opportunities snapped up
February 2015


There are excellent resources on youth workfare at Boycott Workfare, Keep Volunteering Voluntary and Johnny Void.

Charter Against Workfare: A Statement of Principles
For any workplace based scheme for benefit claimants

“First, it must be entirely voluntary.

Secondly, there should be real training so that people go away at the end with skills that are relevant to their future employment prospects.

Thirdly, those concerned must have employee status so that they are protected by health and safety and equal opportunities legislation.

Fourthly, they must be paid the rate for the job—not benefit-plus—and,

finally, projects must have trade union approval.”

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 14th December 1987.

Labour Joins Chorus of protest over workfare

Workfare: Why did so many Labour MPs accept this brutal, unforgivable attack on vulnerable people? Labour’s leadership is failing to uphold its party’s values
Independent, Wednesday 20 March 2013