Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

JSA and ESA sanction appeals and claiming Hardship Payments

with 24 comments

We have been discussing the need for some reliable information on making appeals against sanctions.

The below is recommended by welfare advisers (thanks, NB).

Link: Here.

Extensive Tips on JSA and ESA sanction appeals and claiming Hardship Payments

53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful


1) JSA or ESA claimant and sanctioned?
2) Mandatory reconsideration (Appeal first stage)
2.1) Reconsideration time frame
3) Written statement of reasons
3.1) Be wary of the telephone
4) Second opinion
5) Complain to your MP
6) Hardship payments
7) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction/Benefit
8) Keep claiming
9) Jobcentre adviser is abusive?
Some other points

1) JSA or ESA claimant and sanctioned?

Are you a JSA/ESA claimant and have you been sanctioned? If so, it’s important to take effective action promptly. You have a right to appeal. Currently only one claimant in four appeals a sanction. This is far too few, because the statistics show that the success rate of appeals is currently over 50 per cent. In other words your chance of success is better than evens. In fact, everyone should appeal, because even where sanctions are legally justified, the penalties have become unreasonably harsh.

2) Mandatory reconsideration (Appeal first stage)

The process of appealing to the first stage, after the DWP has sent you their Decision Letter, is an internal ‘mandatory reconsideration’ by DWP. It is simple and doesn’t cost anything apart from telephone calls, stamps or fares.


2.1) Reconsideration time frame

You have to contact the DWP within 1 month of the Decision Letter to ask for mandatory reconsideration, or 1 month and 14 days if you also asked for written statement of reasons for the sanction. The DWP does not have to respond within any set period, but you should contact them if there is a delay of more than a month to make sure your request is being progressed.

3) Written statement of reasons

If the Jobcentre has not sent you a written statement of reasons for the sanction with your Decision Letter, then request it immediately. The DWP says you do not have to ask for a written statement before asking for reconsideration, but that looks like bad advice. It is difficult to see how you can draft an effective appeal without knowing for certain why you have been sanctioned. If you ask for a written statement, you get an extra two weeks (14 days) to lodge your appeal.

3.1) Be wary of the telephone

The DWP Decision Letter will contain a contact telephone number. But even if you discuss the issue over the phone, you should make sure that you submit any Mandatory Reconsideration appeal in writing, in order to have a clear record. Should the DWP telephone and ask you whether you are going to request reconsideration, you should state that you are considering appealing and you will only be responding in writing.

Giving your appeal reasons by telephone risks misinterpretation by the DWP or – worse – you might give the DWP information that appears to support its decision to sanction.

4) Second opinion

Don’t try to appeal without getting a second opinion from someone else as it is vital to say exactly the right things in your appeal statement. One of the best sources of advice is the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) as they are expert in this field and have an excellent record of fighting unreasonable sanctions. Currently, only one sanctioned claimant in a hundred seeks advice from them. If you can’t get to the CAB, then ask whoever you know who you think can help you the best.

5) Complain to your MP

If you have been treated unreasonably, then you should make a point of complaining to your MP (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/) and insisting that they should fight your case on your behalf. There is no evidence on how many sanctioned claimants are going to their MP, but there is a lot of evidence that the DWP is very afraid of MPs and that once they are involved, it backs off imposing sanctions. The DWP is desperate to keep MPs’ support for the sanctions system. Making sure that your MP knows how unfairly sanctions are being applied is one of the best ways of helping your fellow claimants. The sooner Parliament faces up to the scale of abuse in the system, the sooner it will be reformed.

6) Hardship payments

Even if you are sanctioned, you may still be entitled to ‘hardship payments’. (http://refuted.org.uk/2013/11/20/severesuffering/) Make sure you get the information on these from the Jobcentre immediately and get your claim in on time, because there is no backdating. You will only get hardship payments if you continue to sign on for JSA or ESA.

7) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction/Benefit

You must also contact your Housing Benefit/Council Tax Reduction office immediately you know you’ve been sanctioned. Even if you are sanctioned, you remain entitled to Housing Benefit/CTR, but you may need to make a new claim. There is lots of evidence that many sanctioned claimants are running up big rent arrears as a result of having their Housing Benefit cut off, and not being able to get it backdated. This is an extra penalty you simply don’t need and don’t deserve.

8) Keep claiming

The statistics suggest that in recent months, unreasonable pressure from sanctions has been leading an increasing number of claimants to drop their JSA claims entirely. ‘Cancelled’ and ‘reserved’ sanctions decisions are those where a claimant has stopped claiming (or is not entitled to) JSA at the time the sanction referral was made, or whose claim has ended between the time of referral and the time of decision. They have increased hugely, from 150,000 in the last year before the Coalition, to 532,000 in the year to June 2013. But your responsibility is to get the benefits, and help with job search, that you are entitled to.

Another problem is that if you stop claiming but later need to claim again, the sanction will restart, unless you have completed 6 months of employment, of sufficient hours, in the meantime.

So normally, if you are unemployed, you should keep claiming. This means you must keep signing on, and meeting jobsearch requirements, even while you are not getting benefit due to a sanction. There is one possible exception to this, in that even while sanctioned you could be subject to another sanction for not meeting requirements. This would be serious as the Coalition has now introduced a more rapidly escalating scale of penalties for repeat ‘failures’. If you feel your Jobcentre adviser is abusive or cannot be trusted, you should therefore make a complaint about them straight away.

9) Jobcentre adviser is abusive?

If you feel that your Jobcentre adviser is abusive or cannot be trusted, then seek advice immediately from the CAB or your MP, who should help you to make a complaint and get transferred to another adviser.

10) Tribunal (Appeal second stage)

If you are unsuccessful at the ‘reconsideration’ stage, then you also have the right to make a further appeal, to an independent Tribunal. This is not as formal as a court of law, but it is more formal than the ‘reconsideration’ process. Currently, less than one sanctioned claimant in fifty is appealing to a Tribunal – around 1,200 a month. The success rate is lower than for ‘reconsideration’, but it has risen from 17 per cent to 42 per cent. There are no fees and you can claim expenses. So if you have a strong case and intervention by your MP has not worked, then you should definitely go on to the Tribunal stage. You will pretty certainly need advice from the CAB or other adviser about how to do it.

10.1) Appealing to the Tribunal

There are more details and application form at: https://www.gov.uk/social-security-child-support-tribunal/appeal-direct-tribunal


DWP Contractors & Requests for Personal Information held about you (Subject Access Requests)

If your sanction involves a DWP contractor you can also submit a request for personal information (Subject Access Request) for copies of any forms or information about you submitted by them to the Jobcentre. Seehttps://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/personal-information-charter

You can also request copies of any provider letters that notified mandatory activity. Support provided by refuted has more often than not shown these forms, letters and information contain significant mistakes or fail to follow DWP provider guidance or are simply confusing, which can lead to sanctions being overturned or process stopped. However, DWP only has to respond to a Subject Access Request within 40 calendar days. This means that it is not worth waiting for the result before submitting your request for mandatory reconsideration. Any information it reveals will have to be given to your MP or used at a Tribunal.

Jobseeker Directions/Jobseeker Agreements/Claimant Commitments

If your sanction is based upon alleged non compliance with any Jobseeker Directions/Jobseeker Agreements/Claimant Commitments, it is suggested you seek an independent opinion as to whether they are reasonable to your personal circumstances. They can also be formulated in ways that are contrary to DWP guidance or written in ways that are confusing. If they are found to be unreasonable, contrary to DWP guidance or simply confusing, this can lead to sanctions being overturned.


There are a number of ways in which you can make a complaint about the DWP.

Complain about Jobcentre Plus https://www.gov.uk/complain-jobcentre-plus

Got a complaint about a DWP Work Programme Provider?http://refuted.org.uk/2013/10/13/providercomplaint/

However, you should bear in mind that all of these complaints procedures move very slowly and the amount of compensation, if any, that you eventually receive is likely to be small. You are likely to need help in making a complaint from your CAB. Therefore you should concentrate on making sure that you get your request for reconsideration in, and if necessary complain to your MP.

Notes: Welfare rights law and DWP guidance, in particular, changes frequently. You may find more recent information via http://refuted.org.uk/category/ or by using the website search facility (top right)


Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2014 at 11:30 am

24 Responses

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  1. Excellent advice.

    In essence kick up the motherfucker of all stinks! Raise hell!

    ghost whistler

    February 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm

  2. Excellent guide, thank you to those who put it together.

    One fact might be missing (of course I may have missed it) and it’s essential to know it before you decide to request MR or go on to appeal. I don’t include this info’ to scare people off of requesting MR and you have given excellent advice about contacting the LA for LHA and CTA to ensure those payments continue and also about Hardship Payments.

    The rules are now thus….

    If you are on ESA and have been assigned to the wrong group ie: you have been placed in the WRAG and need to be in the Support Group, if you have been incorrectly assessed as Fit For Work, then the following applies…

    …when you request Mandatory Reconsideration, your payments of ESA stop completely for the period that the MR takes. There is no rule to govern how long MR takes.

    JC+ often try and persuade individuals to claim JSA in the interim period, but to do that will automatically close down your MR and/or shut down your Appeal.

    If you agree to sign on to JSA when you aren’t actually able to work or look for work, then you will, in theory be committing fraud by stating that you are fit for work. JC+ can in the space of 30 minutes, persuade you to apply for JSA and then tell you that you aren’t entitled to it.


    February 20, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    • The other important bit is that now you have to lodge the Appeal yourself. JC+ don’t do this anymore.

      You have to lodge your Appeal with the Tribunal Service yourself (and the DWP too)

      The whole burden of setting up the Appeal now lies with the claimant, the gathering of evidence, the endless photocopying and cost of postage, recorded delivery et al – all falls to the ESA claimant who has just had all their money stopped due to requesting Mandatory Reconsideration.


      February 21, 2014 at 9:48 am

  3. Universal Credit: Government’s welfare reform ‘may be scrapped after next election’

    The Department for Work and Pensions disclosed that only 3,200 people had been signed up to receive Universal Credit – a fraction of the original target – at a cost of nearly £200,000 per person.

    The figure emerged amid claims the next government could be forced to pull the plug on Universal Credit, which has already been seriously delayed following IT problems.


    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    • By the way £200,000 x 3,200 = £640 Million.

      Obi Wan Kenobi

      February 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      • £200,000 per person; that’s outrageous. Would it be too much to hope that the upcoming 6 month Workfare scheme could suffer the same fate.

        jj joop

        February 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      • Not at all, they cannot be possibly spending £200,000 per jobseeker on Universal Credit as the country hasn’t got any money, right? LOL

        What does strike me as strange, however, is how much these Government IT projects end up costing when big global organisations such as Google and the like operate massive projects with huge traffic demand for A LOT less.

        Take Google Plus (don’t have actual figures…) apparently cost $585 million – I for one think that is overpriced – but has probably cost £600 million (in pounds at time of writing this, with hundreds of millions of accounts)



        Apparently, a great amount of this figure includes technological acquisitions.

        So how can the out-of-touch UK Government (loosely applied to all past Governments of recent times, of any colour) really flush so much taxpayers money down the drain?

        It is my understanding that of none of the big IT projects in recent times involved building state-of-the-art private datacentres. I could of course be wrong.

        I do not want to draw too many comparisons between an insignificant social networking website and a vital benefit processing system… however I feel many share similar thoughts about the high costs. The pilot/prototype like with anything is always going to be more expensive than in mainstream roll out/production but i cannot see Universal Credit working, it will be more money poured down the drain.

        Universal Jobmatch

        February 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm

  4. Benefit reforms are hiding the true number of unemployed.

    The introduction of the Government’s universal credit scheme has suffered from another embarrassing IT setback, after it emerged that claimants in a region piloting the new system had vanished from official statistics on unemployment.

    “This is another error by incompetent ministers in their botched roll-out of universal credit,” said Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves.


    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 20, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    • Obi, IDS is really looking his age in that picture; in fact, he looks like shit. He looks like a coronary just waiting to happen.

      jj joop

      February 20, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    • An error? A bug??

      No, its a >>FEATURE<<!

      Universal Jobmatch

      February 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

  5. 27 bishops slam David Cameron’s welfare reforms as creating a national crisis in unprecedented attack.

    Biggest political move by Church of England in a generation as bishops attack the prime minister’s welfare reforms.

    A rattled Mr Cameron hit back by claiming the reforms were a “moral mission” and gave people “hope”.

    But he is now also at war with the Church of England and other faith groups including the Quakers and Methodists.

    In their letter the bishops say “Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.”

    The church leaders also challenge Mr Cameron’s claim that his reforms are part of a “moral mission.”


    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 20, 2014 at 6:06 pm

  6. Woody Allen once wrote that he was so meek and mild as a child that he once beaten up by Quakers. Perhaps Cameron feels the same?


    February 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    The Guardian are reporting that the Tories are planning to charge people who appeal the decision to have their benefits sanctions. This proposal was contained in a leaked DWP document seen by the Guardian.

    The Guardian point out that 900,000 people have had their benefit sanctioned in the last 12 months. That is the highest level since JSA was introduced in 1996. They also point out that over 50% of people who have appealed their sanction and have taken it to an independent tribunal are successful in getting their sanction overturned.

    This Tory report also has the gall to brazenly admit that this policy would not save money for the DWP or improve efficiency but would be an income generator for the Justice Department. They don’t even hide the fact that they aim to profitise from people’s poverty.”


    Andrew Coates

    February 21, 2014 at 11:11 am

  8. Universal Jobmatch uses two gov.uk network servers –

    > direct.gov.uk

    > businesslink.gov.uk

    * Both these sub-pages via Google diagnotics test page show in blue text the hosted network links connected to both gov.uk sites. Click on these (blue text) network links to discover more information…


    ** Channel Four News and The Guardian Newspaper have been e-mailed this information on February 21st about UJM having remote connections to malware infested host networks.


    February 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm

  9. It inst surprising that the nasty/vindictive culture of abuse and hate carried out by the DWP that someone would come up with the idea of charging for the appeals process.the potential miscarriage is enormous by strangling the appeals process by affordability. anyone simply entering a jobcentre is potentially a target for mistreatment and made to feel threatened harassed and degraded simply to claim their benefits,even complying with the jobsearch requirements offers no protection from trying it on.

    The so called post work programme support that is little more then a front for destroying people. as the rate of successful appeals increase it continues to show how flawed and unlawful these decisions are.the publicity builds the more appeals will lodged and outcomes of success will rise,there’s nothing democratic in a two tier law which people on benefits are the victims,an attempted cover up of the truth of DWP policy.


    February 21, 2014 at 8:53 pm


    Benefit loans, a charge for making appeals, and now it is rationing of food bank vouchers:



    February 22, 2014 at 9:34 am

  11. I once ate a pasty… 🙂

    We are taxing you

    The Right Hon. George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer

    George Osborne MP

    February 22, 2014 at 11:12 am

    • I vote next year…

      You’re history!

      Pissed off member of the human race.

      Obi Wan Kenobi

      February 22, 2014 at 11:58 am

  12. Lets just hope that whoever we vote for does something about the bullying and unreasonable behavior that the evil cretins in the Tory party have used to beat up the unemployed, ill and disabled.

    Carol Joyce

    February 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm

  13. Benefit Sanctions briefing, on DWP stats release of 19 Feb 2014 by David.Webster@glasgow.ac.uk

    Highest numbers and rates of sanctions to date.

    The number of JSA sanctions in the year to 30 September 2013 was 874,850, the highest since JSA was introduced in 1996.

    In the year to 30 September 2013 there were 22,840 sanctions imposed on ESA claimants in the Work Related Activity Group. This is the highest for any 12-month period since sanctions were introduced for ESA WRAG claimants in October 2008.


    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm

  14. “Tribunals are now upholding almost 9 out of 10 of appeals against DWP. This confirms the evidence that sanctions are applied unreasonably.”


    How does IDS keep his job!!!.


    February 25, 2014 at 12:51 am

  15. OT.

    “Jim Willie Bombshell: Saudi Royal Gold Ransacked in London to Prevent Default!”



    February 28, 2014 at 10:00 pm

  16. Your rights to take support to Jobcentre appointments and have others act on your behalf.

    “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…Claimants can have a variety of people accompany them such as Representatives, Appointees, Corporate acting bodies or Personal acting bodies. Guidance for [DWP] staff includes the information provided below ”


    Obi Wan Kenobi

    March 1, 2014 at 10:50 am

  17. Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.


    May 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm

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