#UniversalCredit #Workfare: 253 benefit sanction referrals to April 2018

Section 16 (3)(e) of the Welfare Reform Act (2012) includes powers to make undertaking Work Experience and a Work Placement a mandatory benefit sanction based requirement for Universal Credit (UC) claimants.

Using the DWP’s stats service, it shows that up to April 2018 there has been 253  referrals for a sanction [1] because of claimants ‘failure to undertake work experience or a work placement’ within “Employment Programmes” only. [2] Worth keeping in mind that 90% of claimants, that will eventually migrate to UC, are still on ‘legacy‘ benefits such as JSA and ESA.

Whilst many make the distinction between what they consider to be ‘voluntary’ and mandatory #workfare, these stats reaffirm that sanctions do apply for Universal Credit forced-labour and therefore can never be ‘voluntary’.

During the time Boycott Workfare and Keep Volunteering Voluntary have been successful in campaigns against mandatory workfare schemes like Community Work Placements (6 month full time placements) and Mandatory Work Activity (4 week full time placements), the DWP institutionalised ‘voluntary’ workfare on a massive unprecedented scale.

Since 2010 the Tory and LibDem coalition admin and now Tory admin came to power there has been 730,130 zero wage work experience “starts”. There is little contemporary evidence any campaign/ers or two private members bills seeking to end “unpaid trial shifts” and “Unpaid Work Experience“ will lead to an outright ban of these zero wage ‘work-for-benefits’ only obscenities any time soon. Maybe even more unlikely if the DWP gets away with it’s plan to no longer produces workfare stats from September 2018. Let alone the fact that there has been 27,800+ unpaid work placements within Jobcentres and the DWP!

If you do consider DWP endless supply of no-wage labour work placements for employers can be ‘voluntary’, consider the fact that they still fail to address principles set out in the 1987 ‘Charter Against Workfare‘.



[1] As these stats does not capture UC workfare sanctions taking place outside of “Employment Programmes” they are likely to be a significant underestimate.

All figures on https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk are for sanction decisions made in relation to Universal Credit live service claimants, and do not include sanction decisions relating to Universal Credit full service claimants.

UC Sanction Decisions from stat-xplore.

Referral Reason: Fail to undertake work experience or work placement

Unsorted Total
August 2015 6 6
September 2015 6 6
October 2015 11 11
November 2015 12 12
December 2015 16 16
January 2016 10 10
February 2016 9 9
March 2016 20 20
April 2016 15 15
May 2016 8 8
June 2016 12 12
July 2016 9 9
August 2016 11 11
September 2016 8 8
October 2016 9 9
November 2016 12 12
December 2016 7 7
January 2017 6 6
February 2017 5 5
March 2017 9 9
April 2017 5 5
May 2017 7 7
June 2017 6 6
July 2017 5 5
August 2017 .. ..
September 2017 5 5
October 2017 14 14
November 2017 5 5
December 2017 7 7
January 2018 6 6
February 2018 .. ..
March 2018 5 5
April 2018 5 5
Total 253 253

Source: https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk

[2] Sanctions that apply for not ‘undertaking work experience or a work placement’ can be found in DWP – ‘Chapter K5 : Low–level sanctions‘. It would appear the DWP was unclear on any powers it had to apply sanctions to the UC Youth Obligation scheme workfare conditions.

At six months of the claim (Youth Obligation offer applies)

Participating in a sbwa

K5066 … “Whilst their decision to take part in the work experience
placement is voluntary, if they agree to a placement they will be expected to start. If
they fail to start, without good reason a sanction will apply”


K5069 … “Whilst their decision to take part in the work
experience placement is voluntary, if they agree to a placement they will be expected
to start. If they fail to start for no good reason a sanction will apply”
DWP – ‘Chapter K5 : Low–level sanctions

“Secretary of State can mandate the claimant to apply for, attend & start a work experience placement as part of a work preparation requirement…

K5123 Work experience

If the claimant fails to …

2. start the work experience, a low level sanction could apply if the claimant cannot show a good reason for the failure.

Example 1
Nicky notified of the start date, time and place of a work experience placement in a supermarket.
She fails to turn up to start the placement as she says she didn’t fancy working in a supermarket. She didn’t think it would be for her.
The DM considers Nicky does not have a good reason for not starting the work experience and imposed a low level sanction. The DM considers it would have been reasonable for Nicky to have at least tried the placement before deciding it wasn’t for her”
Source: DWP – ‘Chapter K5 : Low–level sanctions‘ – Undated – Last update 26 April 2018 – Accessed 06/8/18 [emphasis added] – Archive copy of K5 (pdf )