#BenefitSanctions are not Unfair, Unjust, Exploitative or Punitive…

“There will be an end to zero-hours contracts”
Speech: Tony Blair (1995)

When campaigning against something such as fox hunting, if it has a slogan pretext or preface like ‘stop unfair fox hunting’, use of the word unfair implies that some foxhunting is fair.

For instance:

Is saying that not all zero-hours contracts are exploitative and therefore this ban is not an outright ban. The 2017 Labour Party manifesto now promises to “Ban zero hours contracts”.

No to:

  • unfair benefit sanctions”

clearly expresses the view than many sanctions are fair.


Unite the Union campaigns to “stop” benefit sanctions using the hash tag #no2sanctions and campaigns to end unfair and unjust benefit sanctions.


Fair and just benefit sanctions?

“More and more people are being hit by unfair and unjust benefit sanctions
Source: Flyer: ‘Stop benefit sanctions‘ – Unite Community/Unite the Union. March 2015 (emphasis added) – accessed 20/05/17 – (pdf)

With regards Labour’s 2017 manifesto on Social Security, there is a call to:

Not only does this imply that many sanctions are not punitive it is only a call to end a regime, suggesting that a non punitive benefit sanctions regime is possible. This is therefore not a call to end benefit sanctions (#no2sanctions).

Here two words need careful analysis:

[1] punitive and

[2] regime.

as well as omission, such as the word “punitive” in:
Image 1

or “all” as discussed below.


“A Liberal Democrat government would scrap all benefit sanctions” + [1] [2]
Source: Disability news service. 18/05/17

sounds very promising. However, there is no such undertaking in the Lib Dem manifesto and this proposal stems from a Lib Dem 2016 conference and associated policy papers, which actually says:

“Liberal Democrats would scrap fixed penalty sanctions and instead implement flexible sanctioning guidelines. Benefit sanctions would be directed centrally, based on information from a claimant’s record. Sanctions would only be enforced once the situation had been discussed with the claimant’s local advisor, to ensure that sanctioning was appropriate”
Source: ‘Policy Papers – Autumn Conference 2016′ – ‘Mending the Safety Net’.

which is bears little resemblance to scrapping “all” benefit sanctions.*

Notes: What is the difference for benefit claimants between a sanction, a disallowance and a suspension of benefits? Both Labour and Liberal Democrats seem to be referring to the JSA and ESA benefit sanctions regime introduced during the  2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition administration. Ending a punitive fixed penalty benefit sanctions regime is not the same as ending “all” benefit sanctions, just implied proposals for a new  ‘just’ and ‘fair’ regime.

*Edit [2]:

*Edit [1]: Apparently a Lib Dem conference voted to end “all” benefit sanctions. Bu why the policy paper in question has not been amended to reflect this is unknown at present. It still remains that no such promise exists in the Lib Dem 2017 manifesto. Unable to find details of the amended policy, but did find:

“V  Sanctions applied to benefits are fundamentally wrong and leave people destitute who are already in poverty; the sanction system should be scrapped and replaced with an incentivised scheme.

Vi The sanctions system should allow greater scope for discretion with a stronger safety net to prevent sanctions causing extreme hardship; employment support should be separated from benefits delivery, which includes responsibility for sanctions.

Conference therefore endorses policy paper 124, Mending the Safety Net, as a statement of Liberal Democrat policy on working-age Social Security, and particularly welcomes its proposals to:…

“Scrapping fixed penalty sanctions and instead implementing flexible guidelines with added safeguards so no one can fall below a minimum income”…”
Source: ” F31: Mending the Safety Net (Social Security Policy Paper) Federal Policy Committee” Accessed 20/05/17

but can’t find anything explicitly referring to “all” benefit sanctions, only that Lib Dems would seek to end “fixed penalty” sanctions in any post June 8th 2017 administration.