#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.





Compulsory zero wage youth #workfare conscription set to be expanded

The Conservative 2017 manifesto flags up the high probability* that the
Youth Obligation Benefit Scheme, that includes compulsory zero wage Work Experience, Traineeships & the Sector Based Work Academy, will be expanded to included youth up to age 24, from it’s current 18 to 21.

“More people in work

We will also provide targeted support for young people between the ages of 18 and 24 so that everyone, no matter; what their start in life, is given the very best chance of getting into work”
Source: Conservative manifesto. 18/05/17

*Assuming the Tory administration remains in power after June 8th 2017.






PLP letter to Work and Pensions SoS about @DWP’s 80% target to deny #BenefitSanctions appeals (mandatory reconsiderations)

The Public law project has sent a letter of concern to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, requesting clarification on the DWP’s internal Mandatory reconsideration (MR) process, that has an 80% performance “target” to uphold it’s own decisions, including benefit sanctions.

“PLP is deeply troubled by the apparent imposition of a performance target on MR decision makers to uphold 80% of original decisions. We are also concerned by the high proportion of MR decisions which uphold the original decision given this performance target and in a context in which (a) the number of appeals fell significantly   after   the   introduction   of   mandatory   reconsideration 1 ‘  (b)   the
percentage of appeals which succeed is 38%, and as high as 63% where a representative is involved in the appeal 2
Source: Public law project: Letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – 16/05/17

Independent: Department for Work and Pensions ‘has outrageous target’ to reject 80% of benefits appeals 17/05/17

Note: A Social Security claimant can appeal to an independent tribunal against a decision, but first they “must ask for mandatory reconsideration within a month of the date of a decision about:”

Attendance Allowance
Bereavement Allowance
Carer’s Allowance
Child Benefit
child maintenance (sometimes known as ‘child support’)
Compensation Recovery Scheme (including NHS recovery claims) – contact the Compensation Recovery Unit before you appeal to the tribunal
Diffuse Mesotheliomia Payment Scheme
Disability Living Allowance
Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
Funeral Payments
Guardian’s Allowance
Income Support
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
Maternity Allowance
Pension Credit
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Sure Start Maternity Grant
tax credits
Universal Credit
Vaccine Damage Payment




DWP admits an 80% target to deny appeals against benefit sanctions and it’s decisions

This appears to be an absolutely outrageous interference by the executive with the rule of law….

But it is altogether unspeakable that DWP managers seek to incentivise those who turn these applications down – and what is more, they do not make this policy public.

It would be good if this extraordinary disclosure were to provoke uproar in the highest places.”
Source: Mandatory reconsiderations and the rule of law 15/05/17

“The key measures which are used by the Department for Work and Pensions to monitor
Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) performance are:

a) 90% to be cleared within target.

b) 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld.

The performance measures for April 2016 – March 2017 are:

% MR Cleared within target = 70.2%

% MR Original Decision Upheld = 87.5%

Upheld – percentage of MRs where the decisions have either been unfavourable to the claimant or where the previous decision has been maintained”   (emphasis added)
Source: DWP FOI response 15/05/17: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/402400/response/978248/attach/html/2/FOI%201740%20response.pdf.html

#YouthObligation: DWP confirms Work Experience, Traineeships & Sector Based Work Academy now mandatory

With the introduction of the Youth Obligation benefit scheme, today the DWP released internal guidance confirming previously ‘voluntary’ the back to work schemes:

  1. Work expereince*
  2. Traineeships
  3. Sector based work academy

are all now mandatory for young aged 18 to 21, when not in employment or undertaking an apprenticeship and have been claiming Universal Credit full service (UCFS) for six months. With this framework apprenticeships are also mandatory as failing to start one within 6 months of being on UCFS mean 1 ,2 and 3 will be mandated, with £ sanctions if declined.

We’ll be using work experience much more creatively” [making it mandatory]
Source: Speech – New DWP Secretary of State, Stephen Crabb, outlines his priorities on welfare reform.  12 April 2016

DWP internal guidance:

“Youth Obligation – mandatory participation…

Claimants who are still in the IWSR (Intensive Work Search Regime),
who have not taken up an apprenticeship and are still not in employment at the 6 month point will be expected to start one of the following:

–  traineeship (or equivalent in Scotland and Wales),

–  sector based work academy (or equivalent in Scotland and Wales),

–  3 month guaranteed work experience to give them the skills they need to
move into sustainable employment.

If the claimant fails to undertake any of the mandatory elements above, a
[sanction] might apply”
Source: DWP FoI response -3rd May 2017


Youth Workfare: Direct Action and Campaigning Against

“Suggested actions and considerations, from the 2016 Welfare Action Gathering workshop on The Future of Workfare, specific to the Youth Obligation/Workfare for 18 to 21 years olds: Undertake a Welfare Action Gathering dedicated to young people, whilst caution expressed about…” Continue reading

*Note: Historically the DWP has used the term ‘work placement‘, when referring to mandatory no wage forced-labour (workfare) for benefits. Just like the 6 month full time no wage Community Work Placement (CWP) scheme abused the commonly held understanding of ‘Community Work’, the DWP is seeking to again deliberately con by using the term ‘work experience’ to conflate this compulsory workfare, with the 500,000+ ‘voluntary’ no wage work experience places jobcentres have offered since 2011.

Anti workfare campaigners have not given much attention to ‘voluntary’ forms of workfare, the DWP has used this lack of resistance to set up an entire system of forced-labour built upon 500,000+ trojan horses. Worryingly the Guardian recently sent the term workfare down a memory hole and could not even bring itself to call no wage forced unpaid labour for benefits as workfare.

Join Boycott Workfare‘s campaign against forced-unpaid-labour and sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.


Workfare Scrapped in 2015? Was knowingly total BullSh*t?

Back in days of digital yore (25 Nov 2015), many pronounced the quiet* ‘scrapping of workfare’**.

What seems to have been be missed from these apparently wonderful headlines, was that the DWP had introduced Universal Credit (UC) and under Section 16 (3)(e) of The Welfare Reform Act (2012)  ‘work for your benefits’ workfare was integrated into UC, just as it was for Jobseekers Allowance in The Welfare Reform Act 2009, Part 1 Social security “Work for your benefit” schemes etc.

In April 2017 the DWP announced the introduction of the Youth Obligation Benefits Scheme (YOBS) that includes workfare on an unprecedented scale, allied to scrapping automatic entitlement to UC Housing Costs/Benefit for 18-21 years olds.

“So for those aged 18-21 we are introducing a new Youth Obligation that says they must either earn or learn. We are also abolishing the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds”
Source: Chancellor George Osborne’s Summer Budget 2015 speech – 8 July 2015

So far there has been a very muted response to YOBS, save for the occassional tree falling in a forest. Even reporting YOBS forced unpaid labour, does not even merit use the word workfare these days. Who would have thought the Guardian would send workfare down a memory hole? Maybe it was an April Fool?

“This coming week sees the beginning of the derided Youth Obligation scheme – a carrot-and-stick approach for 18- to 21-year-olds on universal credit.

Those involved are expected to take part in an intensive activity programme from the first day of their claim, be referred to training, and encouraged to take up an apprenticeship. A compulsory work placement awaits if they are not on either after six months.
Source: Guardian 01/4/17

The extent workfare will be used within the new locally devolved Work and Health Programme (WHP) in still unknown. The WHP is replacing the current Work Programme (WP), which includes workfare and will have conscripts until 29 March 2019.

* Department for Work and Pensions’ settlement at the Spending Review  25/11/15
“Total spending on employment will be reduced, including not renewing Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements, but introducing a Work and Health Programme for the longer-term unemployed and those with health conditions.”
Note: Whether not “renewing” workfare contracts is the same as scrapping workfare may seem pedantic, but as shown above, workfare was never scrapped. Especially as the DWP’s unpaid work experience scheme has arranged 500,000+ work placements since 2011 and is being expanded under YOBS, continues under WP and in all likelyhood will be part of WHP. This information was widely available and accessible on 25/11/15.

Workfare Abandoned! Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements Both To Be Scrapped. 25/11/15

“The DWP has announced the end of two major workfare schemes, Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements. This is good news, and shows that persistent campaigning, resistance and exposure has yielded results. But will they return under other names? We have cause to celebrate the end of these life-wrecking and expensive abominations, while the struggle against forced unpaid labour continues…” 25/11/15

Workfare quietly scrapped 25/11/15

Workfare Abandoned! Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements Both To Be Scrapped 25/11/15

Workfare very quietly abandoned? 25/11/15

DWP scraps mandatory ‘work for your benefits’ scheme without fanfare  26/11/15
“The Government’s main welfare-to-work scheme, the Work Programme, continues, however.”

Why no fanfare to the end of workfare? 27/11/15
“Hence, as has been said repeatedly over the last few days, the devil really is in the detail.

So we wait with bated breath for further information on what this new ‘Work and Health Programme’ involves and whether we’ll see a return in workfare under a different name………”?

**Forced-unpaid labour