Full Briefing on DWP benefit sanctions statistics November 2021 release

“Dear Colleague 

 Following my email alert of 17 November, I now attach my full Briefing on the DWP benefit sanctions statistics released on 16 November. Key points are: 

[ Full briefing .docx file ]

  • There was a big rise in Universal Credit (UC) sanctions in June and July 2021. Up to the end of May there had only been 5,490 UC sanctions, for any reason, since the moratorium officially ended on 1 July 2020. But there were 8,687 in June alone and 15,929 in July. The latter figure equates to an annual rate of 191,000. This is not very far short of the 231,717 issued in 2019, the last complete calendar year before the pandemic, though still well below the levels reached under the Coalition. The DWP’s figures on UC claimants under sanction at a point in time indicate that the rise continued in August, and that it has taken place all over the country except in a very few areas.  
  • The rise in UC sanctions has largely been confined to the unemployed, and is almost completely due to sanctions for missed interviews. It is explained by the resumption of face-to-face interviews following on the return to full opening hours for Jobcentres, which took place on 12 April. It appears that to date there has been no decision by DWP to resume sanctions on any significant scale for reasons other than missed interviews.  
  • Of the approximately 29,600 UC claimants newly sanctioned since the end of the moratorium, 79% were male, and half (51.5%) were aged 18-24, with almost nine in ten (85.9%) aged 18-39.   

 There continue to be no new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support (IS) sanctions since the pandemic moratorium, but Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) sanctions have now restarted, albeit at a very low level (approximately 25 in the latest quarter). 

  • The rise in sanctions is concerning, though without more information it is difficult to properly assess its likely effects. Earlier analysis and anecdotal evidence indicate that sanctions for missed interviews can result in claimants spending very long periods under sanction. The exceptionally harsh Duncan Smith/Grayling/Freud sanctions regime introduced in 2012 remains almost completely unreformed. And many studies are showing that the combination of loss of earnings in the pandemic, withdrawal of the £20 per week UC uplift, the benefits freeze, the two child policy, the benefit ceiling and the sharp rise in the cost of living are already leaving very many households in a desperate financial position, with the added burden of mental health worsened by the pandemic. 

– There has a been a significant fall in the number of claimants of UC from a peak of 5.972m in  March 2021 to 5.776m in October 2021.  Of the latter figure, 2.210m or 38.3% were subject to conditionality. By October, almost half of the increase in unemployment produced by the pandemic had been reversed, and JSA accounted for only 6.5% of unemployed claimants, the remainder being on UC.  

  • The news section at the end of the Briefing reports in particular on DWP’s acceptance that it has discretion to waive repayment of sanction hardship payments, and on several new reports dealing with the falling rewards of work and the problems of debt and hunger. 

 If you have any information about the impact of the reinstated missed UC interview sanctions on the ground, for instance through work with an advice agency, I would be most grateful if you would let me know”

  With best wishes
David

Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Urban Studies
School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Glasgow

Email: david.webster@glasgow.ac.uk

Webpages: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/davidwebster/
https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/briefing/david-webster-university-glasgow-briefings-benefit-sanctions

.

.

.

.

Alert: Very Big Rise in Universal Credit Benefit Sanctions

Sanctions Against Universal Credit Claimants Increase by 14,000 in Three Months
Byline Times – Chaminda Jayanetti – 19 November 2021

“Dear Colleague 

The DWP released its latest benefit sanctions statistics yesterday, 16 November. I will be circulating my usual Briefing on the figures in a few days. However, I want to lose no time in alerting you to the fact that the pandemic moratorium now appears to have come definitively to an end. There was a big rise in Universal Credit sanctions in June and July 2021. Up to the end of May there had only been 5,490 UC sanctions since the moratorium officially ended on 1 July 2020. But there were 8,687 in June alone and 15,929 in July. The latter figure equates to an annual rate of 191,000. This is not very far short of the 231,717 issued in 2019, the last complete calendar year before the pandemic.

 The DWP’s figures on the number of UC claimants under sanction take us up to the end of August, and they indicate that the rise continued in that month. Analysis of these figures by Jobcentre Plus District shows that the rise has taken place right across Great Britain, indicating central control. I attach two charts which I hope will help to make the position clear.

sanctions rise graph by Jobcentre District
graph showing big rise in benefit sanctions

 

There has evidently been a major unannounced policy change by DWP to reinstate the sanctions regime, albeit there is no sign yet that it will necessarily reach the extremes of the great sanctions drive of 2010-15. Claimant behaviour does not change fast enough to account for the sudden rise in sanctions, nor can the progress of the issuing of new claimant commitments account for such a rapid change.

 This rise in sanctions is particularly concerning for two reasons. First, the exceptionally harsh Duncan Smith/Grayling/Freud sanctions regime introduced in 2012 remains almost completely unreformed; as the Briefing has pointed out, the abolition of three-year sanctions by Amber Rudd was in practice a minor change. Second, many studies are showing that the combination of loss of earnings in the pandemic, the withdrawal of the £20 per week UC uplift, the benefits freeze, the two child policy, the benefit ceiling and the sharp rise in the cost of living are already leaving very many households in a desperate financial position, with the added burden of mental health worsened by the pandemic.

 The rise in sanctions also raises the question of what has happened to the DWP’s study of their effectiveness, which was originally to be published in ‘late spring 2019’ but has not appeared.

 With best wishes

 
Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Urban Studies
School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Glasgow

Email: david.webster@glasgow.ac.uk

Webpages: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/davidwebster/
https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/briefing/david-webster-university-glasgow-briefings-benefit-sanctions

Notes:

Via email: Original email subject line: “ALERT: Big rise in benefit sanctions”

Benefit sanctions statistics to July 2021 (experimental)

From: Department for Work and Pensions
Published 16 November 2021
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/benefit-sanctions-statistics-to-july-2021-experimental

.

.

.

.

Workfare: Labour confirms it’s commitment to reintroduce mandatory forced-labour for benefits and another punitive benefit sanctions regime, when it next gets into Government

On Sunday, the Labour Party, during it’s party conference, reaffirmed it’s long standing commitment to reintroduce forced-labour workfare for benefit claimants [1], when it next gets into government. Alongside it’s intention to create a new punitive benefit sanctions regime.[2] Labour’s workfare scheme is a retread of the one announced 6 years ago [3], then as now referred to as a ‘compulsory jobs guarantee’ that must be taken up or “face losing benefits“.[4]

Labour conference:
compulsory work placements
BBC – 26 September 2021 – screenshot of article

When Labour was last in power it included mandatory forced-labour for benefits workfare, under it’s New Deal scheme, which also involved greater numbers of benefit claimants being subjected to financial penalties (Benefit Sanctions), including, for the first time, lone parents and disabled people.

Labour’s objective to reintroduce mandatory work for benefits workfare, is despite the fact that Tories have stopped using mandatory work experience or work placement schemes, since effective campaigning and direct action from Boycott Workfare and others forced them to collapse.

References

[1] Labour conference: “compulsory work placements”
26 September 2021
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58694809
Note: BBC replaced the content, you can view an archive of the original at:
https://mrfrankzola.files.wordpress.com/2021/09/web-capture_26-9-2021_163014_webcache.googleusercontent.com_.jpeg

[2] “Labour are looking at reforming sanctions”
23 August 2021
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/labour-pledge-replace-universal-credit-24819406

[3] The Forced Labour Party: The Day That Corbyn (And Half His Cabinet) Voted For Workfare
14 September 2015
https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/the-forced-labour-party-the-day-that-corbyn-and-half-his-cabinet-voted-for-workfare/
Note: The Conservative manifesto of 2015 also included a promise to introduce a new ‘Youth Allowance‘ benefit for 18 to 21 years olds, to limit entitlement to six months and abolish automatic rights to Housing Benefit and impose mandatory daily community workfare, if unpaid traineeships (which can last up to 6 months) or Jobcentre organised work experience are refused.

[4] “Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 1:57 pm, 11th February 2015
I beg to move,

That this House
calls on the Government to put a strict limit on the amount of time that people can be left on jobseeker’s allowance without being offered, and required to take up, paid work, by introducing a compulsory jobs guarantee that would ensure that anyone under 25 who has been receiving jobseeker’s allowance for a year, and anyone over 25 who has been receiving jobseeker’s allowance for two years, would be offered a paid job, with training, that they must take up or face losing benefits”
https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2015-02-11d.804.1&s=%22face+losing+benefits%22#g804.2

What is workfare?

DWP – “workfare activities are sometimes referred to as ‘unpaid work experience’, ‘community service’ or ‘work for benefits’”
Source: DWP Research Report No 533 ‘A comparative review of workfare programmes in the United States, Canada and Australia’ – (2008)

Boycott Workfare – “a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare” (website) – “Campaign to abolish forced unpaid labour” (twitter)

Keep Volunteering Voluntary – “Workfare is the name given to government schemes where unemployed and disabled people have to work in return for their benefits.” (website) – “Keep it Voluntary Promoting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement in the voluntary sector. For volunteering, against workfare” (twitter)

Welfare Reform Act (2009)
“Work for your benefit” schemes etc.

Welfare Reform Act (2012) – Universal Credit
Section 16 Work preparation requirement

(3) (e) undertaking work experience or a work placement

Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013
…the programme known as the Community Action Programme
(See ‘Community Work Programme’)
…(a) the Mandatory Work Activity Scheme, or
(b) a placement described as Mandatory Work Activity.

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.”

Hansard: Clare Short MP – 14th December 1987

Workfare States

“Contemporary workfare policies rarely involve job creation on any significant scale, along the lines of the old-fashioned public-works programs; they are more concerned with deterring welfare claims and necessitating the acceptance of low-paid, unstable jobs in the context of increasingly “flexible” labour markets. Stripped down to it’s labour-regulatory essence, workfare is not about creating jobs for people that don’t have them; it is about creating workers for jobs that nobody wants. In a Foucauldian sense, it is seeking to make “docile bodies” for the new economy: flexible, self-reliant and self-disciplining”

Source: Jamie Peck in Workfare States (2001)

Work camps and the training of the unemployed in Britain before 1939 (pdf)
Why workfare doesn’t work – by author of labour camp book

Update on new posts and info

Update 19/8/21: New resources added on DWP’s £3bn Restart employment ‘support’ scheme: https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/restart/ RE: Copies of providers diagnostic and action plan tools and new FOI requests for participant Induction Packs.

Due to covid19 there will be no more new posts.
However, details of new resources, reports, documents and FOI releases will be posted below and on twitter @mrfrankzola as and when able.

DWP FOI Watch https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/dwpfoiwatch #DWPfoiWatch

.

.

.

.

.

New two-tier UC and JSA #BenefitSanctions policy introduced, as only some claimants will be subject to sanctions, depending upon where they live in the UK

Today the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has provided more details (report paper 24) of the DWP’s and DfC’s Benefit Sanctions policy under the coronavirus crisis. The SSAC report confirms some policies outlined in previously published DWP documents, but gives more details of internal processes used by Jobcentres and Work ‘Coaches’, some extracts are shown below and are the subject of FOI requests.

If understood correctly , the SSAC report implies likes of Universal Credit (UC) claimants in Northern Ireland will not be subject to Benefit Sanctions, but UC claimants in England, Scotland and Wales will be once a new or revised Claimant Commitment is in place.

Therefore DWP and DfC appear to have created inconsistent two-tier Benefit Sanctions regimes that are significantly different, specifically “For new claims made from 8 July 2020, DfC [Northern Ireland] will instigate “light-touch” discussions without the threat or potential of a sanction” and “From 1 July 2020 DWP [England, Scotland and Wales] began to reintroduce new and updated claimdant commitments for UC, on a phased approach as capacity allowed, and have told us that only once a claimant’s new or updated claimant commitment is in place can claimants receive a sanction for failure to meet the commitment without good cause.” The “DWP has a developed a Discretion Framework that is available to DWP staff. While an internal discretion framework can help guide consistency on how conditionality might be eased”. The SSAC report goes on to say:

“The approach by DfC is that the reintroduced work search conversations and the claimant commitment for new Universal Credit claimants will involve a light-touch discussion that will seek to support and help those new to Universal Credit, and that it will not involve the threat or potential of a sanction for non-compliance.

In the interim, it is unclear what the elements of pre-pandemic claimant commitments DWP and DfC regard as reasonable for claimants to follow or not follow, and at what point claimants will be failing to meet their commitments and therefore be liable for sanctions”

The report then makes a recommendation that seem muddled or may just reflect how inconsistent the DfC and DWP Claimant Commitment/Conditonality/Sanctions policy approaches are.

Recommendation 3:

DWP and DfC should communicate clearly with those whose pre-lockdown claimant commitments have not yet been updated to identify what it is reasonable to expect them to do under their existing claimant commitment. DWP and DfC should also ensure that there is consistent treatment with those who have updated claimant commitments so that no sanctions are applied for something that would not be sanctionable under an updated claimant commitment.

It remains unclear what status the DWP statement below has:

“During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,
you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep
to your Claimant Commitment
See ”No Claimant Commitment #BenefitSanctions the during Covid19 outbreak? + All Universal Credit guidance published (179 docs)” for more background on this quote.

Work coaches should not take any action if the claimant has not met all
their work related [Claimant Commitment] requirements, but can show a reasonable level of activity

Source: DWP ‘Spotlight on: Fortnightly work search reviews‘ – disclosed 29 September 2020

Independent report: A review of the COVID-19 temporary measures:
occasional paper 24
Published 18 November 2020
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-review-of-the-covid-19-temporary-measures/a-review-of-the-covid-19-temporary-measures-occasional-paper-24

Extracts: “Our review of these measures and the potential challenges of unwinding them covers 6 themes:

  1. Conditionality and the unwinding of the easements

DWP and DfC reinstated these conditionality measures, stating that:

“The reintroduction of the claimant commitment represents a return to business as usual, not a policy change”[footnote 13]

“Claimant commitment requirements will be reasonable taking into account current circumstances”[footnote 14]

DWP has told us that Work Coaches will work to ensure that commitments made by claimants are reasonable and allow them to adhere to continuing local and national public health advice in regards to COVID-19, while also doing what they can to engage with the labour market.

From 1 July 2020 DWP began to reintroduce new and updated claimant commitments for UC, on a phased approach as capacity allowed, and have told us that only once a claimant’s new or updated claimant commitment is in place can claimants receive a sanction for failure to meet the commitment without good cause.

For new claims made from 8 July 2020, DfC will instigate “light-touch” discussions without the threat or potential of a sanction, in recognition of the challenging circumstances people still find themselves in.

Assurances of reasonableness in taking account of current circumstances are welcome, as is the Department’s expectation that its Jobcentre managers and Work Coaches will work with claimants appropriately.

DWP’s commitment that conditionality and sanctions policies will continue to be tailored in light of the ongoing public health situation…

“DWP has a developed a Discretion Framework that is available to DWP staff. While an internal discretion framework can help guide consistency on how conditionality might be eased…

Reviewing commitments for other claimants

For other claimants, the commitment agreed pre-lockdown may not be suitable under current circumstances. While new claimant commitments are being prioritised, it will take time to revise those claimant commitments that were developed pre-pandemic. DWP and DfC have both said they will review and update these claimant commitments as capacity allows.

As DWP has told us, in some cases it may take some time until claimants have a revised claimant commitment, but that there is an expectation that claimants will do everything they can reasonably do to prepare and look for work before then. On this basis, DWP has said that once their new or updated claimant commitment is in place, and work-related requirements agreed and accepted, claimants can again receive a sanction if they fail to meet those requirements without good reason.

The approach by DfC is that the reintroduced work search conversations and the claimant commitment for new Universal Credit claimants will involve a light-touch discussion that will seek to support and help those new to Universal Credit, and that it will not involve the threat or potential of a sanction for non-compliance.

In the interim, it is unclear what the elements of pre-pandemic claimant commitments DWP and DfC regard as reasonable for claimants to follow or not follow, and at what point claimants will be failing to meet their commitments and therefore be liable for sanctions.

Footnotes

  1. UK Parliament, Social Security Benefits: Disqualification: Written question – 66869
    https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-06-30/66869
  2. UK Parliament, Social Security Benefits: Written question – 70412
    https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-07-07/70412

.

.

.

.

.

DWP insults Disabled People, Carers and Unemployed by fully explaining why they did not deserve the weekly £20 coronavirus emergency payments

After an FOI request [1] the Social Security Advisory Committee finally publishes the 2020 minutes of it’s meetings. They contain the truly insulting reasons why the DWP considers people on legacy benefits (ESA, JSA and Carers Allowance) do not deserve the £20 coronavirus emergency paymens provided to millions of Universal Credit (UC) claimants, like the 3.2 million that claimed UC during the UK wide lockdown.

The DWP suggest that the reason it did not make £20 payments to disabled people on ESA, Carers on Carers Allowance and unemployed on Jobseeker’s Allowance was because they are not facing the “most financial disruption” [like newly unemployed workers] during the covid19 crisis, the IT system was too “complex” and how “Safeguarding the benefit system was their priority“.

Social Security weekly payments:
Universal Credit – £94.50 per week – £79.08 Single and under 25
(including the £20 covid19 payment)
Carers Allowance – £67.25 (For providing a minimum of 35 hours a week of care)
Jobseeker’s Alowance – £74.35 (Up to age 24 £58.90)

Social Security Advisory Committee
Minutes of the meeting held on 13 May 2020

(a) Why was the treatment for legacy benefits inconsistent with Universal Credit (UC)? What was the rationale for the increase to the work allowance in Universal Credit (£20 perweek), and no increasefor legacybenefits?

The Government made decisions that could be quickly and effectively implemented. The Universal Credit IT system was more flexible than the legacy benefits systems that had complex interdependencies and interactions. The Government’s view was to have a balanced package across the board and made changes to the benefit system to allow it to prioritise and pay claimants quickly.

(b) Could you elaborate on the “people experiencing themost financial disruption”, for example in Universal Credit?

A significant number of people were claiming and were new to the system. [like newly unemployed workers] New claimants appeared to be facing the most financial disruption at the current time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also made the decision to increase Working Tax Credits(WTC) to help those still in work.

(c) Was the rationale because the previous level of benefits were not enough?

The current increases were to provide additional support for people who were facing the most financial disruption from the effects of Covid-19 outbreak.

(d) What was the justification for not increasing Jobseeker’s Allowance(JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance(ESA)?

Ministers hadmade their decisions and their reasons had been given. Safeguarding the benefit system was their priority.

(e) How would it be differentiated to give people more money and/or support (Carers Allowanceand other benefits)?

The Government’s first priority for carers was to make sure that they did not inadvertently drop off Carers Allowance, so it had relaxed break in care rules and allowed “emotional support” to count towards the 35 hour a week care threshold. DWP continued to monitor the position. In terms of the rate of benefits paid to carers,the Government believed that most help should be provided to those carers in most need through Universal Credit which was means tested. Carers Allowance was not means tested (but was uprated by Consumer Prices Index(CPI)) and so recipients might have other financial resources to help support them. Carers on Universal Credit would benefit from the increase the Government had made.The extent to which people would benefit was based on specific combinations of benefits people were entitled to. There was a complex interaction between benefit systems that needed to be considered. The Government was responding to a rapidly developing environment that could change.”

Source: May 2020 Minutes – The Social Security Advisory Committee – accessed 14/11/2020

Reference

[1] “The minutes of SSAC should be public. They have not been published for over a year which is a disgrace.”
Source: ‘How the ” emotionally attached ” architect of Universal Credit will now be its chief DWP scrutineer‘ 18/10/20

.

.

.

.

No Claimant Commitment #BenefitSanctions the during Covid19 outbreak? + All Universal Credit guidance published (179 docs)

Stats: Universal Credit benefit sanctions: July 2020: 7 (Seven) – July 2019: 22,565

DWP Official Statistics – Benefit sanctions statistics to July 2020 (experimental) – 10 Novermber 2020

“During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,
you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep
to your Claimant Commitment
See footnote below for the history of this quote.

Compliance
Claimants are only expected to do what is reasonable. When work
coaches are considering expected hours of work search and work
related requirements, they must include the impact of coronavirus.
Work coaches should not take any action if the claimant has not met all
their work related requirements, but can show a reasonable level of
activity

Source: DWP ‘Spotlight on: Fortnightly work search reviews‘ – disclosed 29 September 2020

Universal Credit (UC) guidance (179 docs)
DEP2020-0646, committed on 29 October 2020
https://depositedpapers.parliament.uk/depositedpaper/2282591/files – Past copies: https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/all-universal-credit-guidance/

Always cross check the above DWP guidance with information on gov.uk, Advice for decision making (ADM), Decision maker’s guide (DMG) and Understanding Universal Credit. As well as FOI disclosures as they often have more relevant information from a Social Security claimant point of view, such as how UC Claimant Commitments (CC) are more relaxed due to Covid 19 and associated effects on CC Compliance and Benefit Sanctions.

Caveat: The above sanctions information is the subject of an FOI request and wider discussion. The Social Security Advisory Committee, The Commons Library, The Work and Pensions Committee and a few MPs have been requested to investigate these matters.

Footnote

1.10 Sanctions
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep to your Claimant Commitment.
“Updated 6 April 2020”
https://web.archive.org/web/20201016103130/https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you
Accessed 09/11/2020:
“Updated 20 October 2020”
1.10 Sanctions
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep to your Claimant Commitment.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you
Archive https://web.archive.org/web/20201109162631/https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you (copied 09/11/2020)

Hat Tip for Benefit Sanctions info above (1.10) Anita Bellows twitter.com/AnitaBellows12 @AnitaBellows12 (October 2020)


.

.

.

.