DWP advisors call for ‘urgent review’ of benefit sanctions

Paul Gray
Paul Gray

An independent advisory committee has called for an urgent and robust review of the UK government’s benefit sanctions regime amid concerns that it is failing to help jobless claimants.

The social security advisory committee, which advises the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said the inquiry should ensure “that existing rules are thoroughly evaluated and greater testing with incentives rather than penalties is explored”.

It recommends that the policy of sanctions, stopping claimants’ dole payments for alleged breaches of benefit rules, should be put on hold until “a firm evidence base” has been established.

In its report to ministers, it said: “, among others, has raised concerns about the increased use of sanctions, not because we believe that they are necessarily ineffective, but because we do not know for certain that they are effective, at least in terms of getting people into good quality jobs.

“We believe that the sanctions regime needs to be tested.”

The 13-strong committee, chaired by former DWP permanent secretary Paul Gray, also noted the DWP’s aim to give Universal Credit tenants responsibility for their rent by including their housing costs in with their monthly payment as “an area of concern for both landlords and claimants alike”.

It recommended that the policy needs close monitoring to ensure that arrears are kept in check and landlords are not discouraged from offering accommodation to benefit claimants. The report added that the under-occupancy rules need to be kept under review in respect of such groups as those who have been recently bereaved or where a disabled child is a member of the household.

In a statement, a DWP spokesman said: “Benefit sanctions are a longstanding part of the benefit system and encourage people to engage with the support on offer.

“We’re working closely with social security advisory committee and other groups as we head into the next phase of delivery, to ensure that claimants continue to benefit from the better work incentives and simplicity of universal credit.”

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