Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Complete Review of Vicious and Arbitrary Benefit Sanctions Needed Says MPs’ Report.

with 41 comments

Get Rid of the Sanction Regime!

The report below in today’s Guardian shows that nobody can ignore the crisis caused by the ‘Sanctions Regime’.

A drive to ‘get’ benefit claimants, to make their lives a misery, to ‘force’ them into jobs that are not there, to spy on our every move,  has meant what?

It’s meant acts of wanton cruelty, people left without the basics of life, food shelter, their children hungry and distressed, people driven to despair…

That’s the Liberal-Conservative Coalition’s most enduring legacy.

We call for an expansion of this review to include the prosecution of those responsible for causing great hardship to claimants, the criminal investigation of those committing fraud against claimants in the DWP, and for the government Ministers in charge of the sanctions regime to be brought to Justice.

Independent review of benefit sanctions urgently needed, say MPs

Cross-party report comes amid concerns that financial penalties have been issued inappropriately and caused hardship and destitution.

A wide-ranging independent review of the government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime is urgently needed to address widespread concerns that it is unfair, excessively punitive, and does little to help people get into work, according to a cross-party committee of MPs.

The MPs’ report follows a short inquiry undertaken amid public concern that sanctions were being imposed inappropriately, causing hardship, destitution and ill-health, and routinely forcing jobseekers to rely on food banks to survive.

Sanctions are financial penalties, stopping claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks for apparent breaches of jobcentre rules, such as missing appointments or failing to carry out enough job searches.

The committee chair, Dame Anne Begg, said: “No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where they are at risk of severe financial hardship to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.”

The committee also recommends the creation of a body similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission which would investigate all cases where an individual dies or kills themselves while in receipt of working-age benefit. The inquiry was set up partly in response to a petition signed by over 200,000 people shocked by the death of diabetic former soldier David Clapson, who died penniless in July 2014, 18 days after sanctions were imposed on him.

Comment here: Work and Pensions Committee finds no evidence that sanctions help benefit claimants into work

More directly: Benefit sanctions: the 10 trivial breaches and administrative errors.

Read this and Weep:

The recent MPs’ inquiry into sanctions heard copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.

A typical example is the following anonymised list of sanctions reported by food bank clients to the Trussell trust charity:

  1. Man who missed appointment due to being at hospital with his partner, who had just had a stillborn child.
  2. Man sanctioned for missing an appointment at the jobcentre on the day of his brother’s unexpected death. He had tried to phone Jobcentre Plus to explain, but could not get through and left a message which was consequently not relayed to the appropriate person.
  3. Man who carried out 60 job searches but missed one which matched his profile.
  4. Man had an appointment at the jobcentre on the Tuesday, was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack that day, missed the appointment and was sanctioned for nine weeks.
  5. Man who secured employment and was due to start in three weeks. He was sanctioned in the interim period because JCP told him he was still duty bound to send his CV to other companies.
  6. Young couple who had not received any letters regarding an appointment that was thus subsequently missed. Their address at the Department for Work and Pensions was wrongly recorded. They were left with no money for over a month.
  7. One case where the claimant’s wife went into premature labour and had to go to hospital. This caused the claimant to miss an appointment. No leeway given.
  8. One man sanctioned for attending a job interview instead of Jobcentre Plus – he got the job so did not pursue grievance against the JCP.
  9. Man who requested permission to attend the funeral of his best friend; permission declined; sanctioned when he went anyway.
  10. A diabetic sanctioned and unable to buy food was sent to hospital by GP as a consequence.

Sometimes sanctions have a bizarre, nightmarish quality, such as this one, reported by Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea food bank and cited in a recent Church Action on Poverty report:

We had a number of customers who had been sanctioned including one guy who had been sanctioned for being late for his appointment at the jobcentre because the queue was so long it took him to past his appointment time to be seen. He was sanctioned even though he had arrived at the jobcentre in plenty of time.

Or this one, cited on the A Selection Of Especially Stupid Benefit Sanctions tumblr website (and taken from a local newspaper report)

You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the jobcentre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.

The consequences, however can be severe. One claimant, Glenn McDougall, recalled his experience of being sanctioned three times in written evidence to the work and pensions committee inquiry:

On the first occasion I cancelled a jobcentre appointment to go to a job interview. It was short notice however I phoned the jobcentre to inform them and was assured on the phone that it was ok. I was sanctioned two weeks JSA. I appealed this and was found to be in the right and the money was paid to me, which was great, but in the interim I had to go two weeks without a penny to my name. I missed other job interviews because I had no money for transport and went without food, electric and heating for some of that time. It was a cruel punishment issued arbitrarily, had a negative impact on my jobseeking and diminished my respect for the benefit system massively.

The committee heard that claimants with learning difficulties, were especially vulnerable to sanctioning. Here’s an example provided by the charity Mencap:

AP has a learning disability and was given 30 job searching actions every week after he applied for JSA. These actions included accessing UJM [universal job match] every week. However, he did not have the IT skills necessary to do this and was not given support by JCP [Jobcentre Plus] to do this. He had, however, still been pro-active in applying for jobs. He showed the JCP several pages of handwritten job notes. They would not accept these as they were handwritten and not using UJM. He was then sanctioned. Given his lack of IT skills and the lack of IT support by JCP, Mencap argues that handwritten notes are a reasonable adjustment. He had already been sanctioned by JCP several times.

More on site.

It makes you boil with rage.


Written by Andrew Coates

March 24, 2015 at 11:40 am

41 Responses

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  1. David Clapson died two weeks after his benefits were suspended. Photo: Gil Thompson

    ” The grieving relative of David Clapson – a man found dead in his flat from diabetic ketoacidosis, two weeks after his benefits were suspended – has welcomed the recommendations from the Work and Pensions select committee into benefit sanctions, published today.

    In the report the cross-party committee of MPs have called for an “urgent”, full review established by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), into benefit conditionality. It also adds, that a new independent body should be created – similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission – that would investigate instances where failures of the DWP may have contributed to the death of a claimant. Reviews could be conducted at the request of a relative, or automatically where no living relative remains.

    During the final meeting of the three hearings in February, the DWP conceded that since February 2010, they had carried out 49 “peer reviews” following the death of a benefit claimant. Although a previous Freedom of Information disclosure stated the figure was indeed 60 – something the committee have acknowledged.

    “I’m pleased, if they follow it up,” added Gill Thompson, Clapson’s younger sister. She discovered her brother’s body in July 2013. Clapson’s electricity had been cut off, meaning the fridge where he stored his insulin was no longer working. Thompson, speaking to the New Statesman, claims that the benefit sanction given to her brother acted as a “death sentence.”

    Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Work and Pensions committee added: “No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where are at risk of severe financial hardship to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.”

    Although the report backs the principle of sanctions, it is highly critical of the government for its inability to provide evidence that a harsher benefit regime – introduced by Iain Duncan Smith in 2012, under the Welfare Reform Act – is anymore effective. Interestingly, the report does add that the stringency of sanctions has increased under successive government’s since the eighties.

    The committee also calls to make hardship payments immediately available to claimants with sanctions who need them, instead of the 15 days they currently have to wait. It adds that “yellow card” approach whereby claimants who breach rules for trivial reasons receive “pre-sanction warnings” instead of an immediate benefit sanction.”


    Andrew Coates

    March 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm

  2. Annos

    March 24, 2015 at 12:32 pm

  3. Root and branch abolition of the whole sanctions regime!

    Double dole and pension….

    Andrew Coates

    March 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm

  4. Annos

    March 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm


    Mr Balls’ Labour has said he will not change anything from the last Tory Budget, nor reverse Tory spending cuts.

    Labour will not revoke the pension reforms that will mean nil state pension for life.

    See why under my petition, in my WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT section, at:

    Labour will not revoke sanctions nor undo Universal Credit that from 2016 will make sancitons permanent by the lower replacing Hardship Payments ceasing to be a benefit and becoming a recoverable loan against future benefit or wages by court order direct deductions. So nil food money either way.

    Labour will not revoke workfare, from which someone can be sanctioned.

    So few folk will come out to vote in May, that neither Tories nor Labour will win sufficient MPs to form a government, even with a partner party in coalition.

    So all the expert pundits predict a second general election.

    After which there will be a TORY AND LABOUR COALITION.

    This has already been tried in Scotland, with 5 councils, including Stirling, being in a Tory and Labour coalition.



    Voting different can achieve more this year than any time in UK history,
    as the poor now outnumber all other voters.

    Labour will gain votes from the middle class,
    that are those on income of £40,000 and above,
    as Labour said again and again do not want to be the party of those on benefit.

    The more MPs from different parties that are actually for the poor,
    then Labour must change in government.

    The only way to win against the Tories and end the starvation of the end of the welfare state and state pension.


    Only a GROUP OF PARTIES beyond just two parties,
    reaching the threshold of 323 MPs
    can form a majority and stable government in the UK parliament.

    The Scot SNP will grant a fair few of these votes.

    Plaid Cymru a couple or so more.


    The SNP and Plaid Cymru come into UK parliament in a ‘supply and confidence’ type of coalition, which means not a straightforward coalition that meant Lib Dems achieved nothing against Tory cuts.


    – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)
    (ex Labour sacked from party for being against austerity cuts)

    – Mebyon Kernow
    Cornwall has the most slim amount of votes that got the
    sitting Tory or Lib Dem MP into their job in 2010.

    – Class War
    Double dole and pension

    Running for the first time, mostly in London
    fighting alongside social tenants
    where whole social housing estates evicted
    and estate sold off to developers
    to build luxury flats.

    Socialist GB
    For example, Brighton Pavilions is the 1 Green MP already in UK parliament.
    But Brighton has another two voting areas.

    Brighton Kemptown has majority of poor voters –
    Socialist GB candidate running


    This is a Vote or Starve election.

    The poor have never had so much power.

    Logos and party names and how to ensure registered to vote on my personal website:


    Please share on your social media and reblog. Thanks.


    March 24, 2015 at 2:30 pm

  6. Reblogged this on Lindas Blog.


    March 24, 2015 at 3:14 pm

  7. The DWP’s harsh benefit sanctions regime has pushed Jobcentres towards a culture of harassment, not help.
    Changes under Iain Duncan Smith have meant a surge in the use of financial sanctions for benefit claimants. The financial sanctions are much harsher too, lasting a minimum of four weeks and can be as long as three years.

    There is also worrying evidence that sanctions are being used unfairly and arbitrarily, with claimants who are trying their best being sanctioned for ridiculous reasons such as being late for appointments they had not been told about, not job searching on Christmas Day or attending a family funeral.

    It’s not just claimants saying this. Many Jobcentre advisers say they are given targets for sanction referrals and feel bullied by managers into sanctioning jobseekers who are doing their best to find work. And now, the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee of MPs has called for an urgent review of the failing sanctions regime.

    We’re starting a petition to be given to the next Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after the election, asking them to immediately establish the review called for by the Committee.

    Sign the petition to ask incoming Secretary of State to urgently review and reform the sanctions system

    Thanks for all your support,
    Jay and the Going To Work team

    Petition: https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/reform-the-cruel-sanctions-regime

    PS: For more on the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s findings, check out this post on the TUC’s Touchstone blog:


    Andrew Coates

    March 24, 2015 at 5:14 pm

  8. Benefit sanctions might just be about punishing the unemployed, MPs warn.

    Recent changes to benefit sanctions may be geared towards punishing people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work, a committee of MPs has warned.

    Parliament’s Work and Pensions Select Committee said there was evidence that the sanctions caused more problems than they solved, and that the Government had not yet provided evidence that the system was not “purely punitive”.

    The committee said the Government needed to provide more evidence to support its hard-line approach, as the committee’s chair warned that financial hardship caused by the sanctions could lead families being unable to eat.



    March 24, 2015 at 7:25 pm

  9. “Select committee ‘ignores evidence’ over sanctions targets”



    March 24, 2015 at 7:45 pm

  10. Disadvantaged children have suffered disproportionately during austerity and their problems in accessing legal aid are a “black mark” on the government’s record, according to a parliamentary committee.

    While the joint committee on human rights (JCHR) praises the government’s public commitment to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC), peers and MPs highlight failures in practice and call for “some of the harm caused” to be undone.

    “The impact on children of this current period of austerity has been greater than for many other groups,” the select committee report on compliance with the UN convention notes.



    March 24, 2015 at 7:47 pm

  11. Pensioners mock David Cameron at Age UK conference.

    Audience heckles prime minister as he defends NHS policy and laughs when he tries to explain his announcement that he will not seek to serve third term.



    March 24, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    • Camoron thinks Boris is one of three possible successors. They must think they’re all staring in some daft TV reality show.

      Another Fine Mess

      March 25, 2015 at 12:49 am

      • Another Fine Mess, they are its called, wait for it.. wait for it….

        “We’re all in it together”


        March 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

  12. Work and Pensions – Fifth Report

    Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review



    March 24, 2015 at 8:01 pm

  13. East Anglian Daily Times (hard copy, not on web),March 25th.

    “One in 10 have their JSA suspended” – in Forest Health (Suffolk)”

    “Unemployed benefit claimants are more likely to be sanctioned if they live in the Forest Heath than in any other area in East Anglia an independent report has shown.”

    “With an average 10.7 in every 100 claimants being sanctioned the district if the 11th most likely place in the country to be sanctioned.

    In neighbouring St Edmunds 5,8 in every 100 claimants are sanctioned by the Department of Work and Pensions.”

    Report is from the homelessness Charity Crisis.

    Andrew Coates

    March 25, 2015 at 9:45 am

    • Crisis is hiring Housing Coaches in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Coventry.

      The new posts will help more single homeless people find decent, sustainable homes in the private rented sector.

      Chris Hancock, Head of Housing at Crisis, said: “If you are single and homeless, it is incredibly difficult to find a decent home. Increasingly, the only option open to you is the private rented sector. With our years of experience helping housing projects house thousands of homeless people in secure rented homes, we’ve decided we must step in to fill the gap where local resources are stretched.”

      Crisis currently has Housing Coaches working in Oxford and London, who already help homeless people find decent, sustainable homes in the private rented sector.



      March 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    • The findings come from a new independent report presenting evidence of a flawed and punitive regime with devastating consequences for homelessness, food poverty and health.



      March 25, 2015 at 1:37 pm

  14. Tax avoidance ‘at the very core’ of firms bidding for major NHS contracts, Unite reveals

    22 March 2015

    Private health firms bidding for NHS services have tax avoidance measures ‘at the very core of their business planning’, research from Unite the union has revealed.

    To make matters even worse many of these companies are US companies, or have strong US investment links, which means that the government could be prevented from taking NHS contracts back into the public sector unless the NHS is exempted from the trade deal TTIP.



    March 25, 2015 at 10:56 am

  15. Greece holds Independence Day parade amid scramble to agree reforms – live updates



    March 25, 2015 at 11:45 am

  16. Is this yet another attack on the “out of work”

    GPs should tell their patients to ‘go for a walk’

    Amid evidence that Britain is now one of the laziest countries in the world, MPs have said GPs should tell their patients to ‘go for a walk’ and not rely on medical advances to save their lives.

    The Commons Health Select Committee report on physical activity and diet said family doctors needed to do far more to persuade the public to adopt healthier lifestyles – instead of expecting technology to save their lives.

    MPs said Britain’s sedentary lifestyles were now among the worst in the world, and far more slothful than those in the United States.

    Latest data shows almost two in three people in Britain do not manage 20 minutes vigorous activity three times a week, their report warns.



    March 25, 2015 at 12:49 pm

  17. Date: 25 March 2015

    Dear Mr Allen,

    Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 2 March

    You asked:

    Please can you provide the DWP polices regarding a claimant been
    accompanied by another person while attending a job centre appointment.
    i.e: Carer, reasonable adult, witness.



    March 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm

  18. A new vision for older workers: retain, retrain, recruit.

    Dr Ros Altmann’s findings and recommendations for improving the working lives of Britain’s over 50s.



    March 25, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    • Put on top of this the news that if the cuts continue on Adult education, there will soon be NO Adult Education available over the age of 21 [Bet that gets lowered to 18 then 17, then… at Ten years old its of to the work house for you Child and beware the Toffs who smile at you and offer to ‘…help you’…]

      “Colleges say ‘swathe of cuts’ threatens adult education”

      So, if under 21 get extra education [read workfare]
      Older than 21, screwed [welcome to workfare]


      But remember …. wait for it … wait…

      “We’re all in it together!”


      March 25, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      • Education for over 24s ended when this government took away course concessions and replaced it with the advanced learners loan scheme.

        Sadly unlike the concessions, this new scheme doesn’t cover most courses and even if it did, an unemployed person would still have to sign a DWP agreement stating there give it up and still own the loan if offered any paid employment.

        This means say you take a loan one week and three weeks into the course get a job, that the total amount of the loan is payable. Now if you never earn over a certain amount, that’s bad news for the taxpayers who have to foot the bill in fifteen years time. I wont mention the other alternative as no one unemployed is hardly likely to earn over this amount with the tripe that’s on offer in todays labour market.

        Maybe that’s a plan, lets all get the education bug and take out a loan we know that can never get paid back as then it will give the taxpayer around 3.2 billion reasons why this isn’t a productive idea.


        March 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

  19. I saw on the news on Monday that the Tories are going to cut the benefits of the long-term unemployed if they are re-elected. How do you define long-term unemployed?

    jj joop

    March 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm

  20. Employers attending and recruiting directly from Burnley Jobcentre.

    15/12/2014 The Range
    16/12/2014 The Range
    18/12/2014 Key Appointments
    23/12/2014 Remploy
    29/12/2014 The Range
    30/12/2014 Remploy
    02/01/2015 The Range
    06/01/2015 Calico
    14/01/2015 Heads Recruitment
    15/01/2015 Poundland
    22/01/2015 Heads Recruitment
    29/01/2015 Mike Burrell and Heads Recruitment.
    03/02/2015 Heads Recruitment and Learn direct
    05/02/2015 Heads recruitment
    11/02/2015 Age UK
    11/02/2015 Army
    10/02/2015 Hays recruitment
    17/02/2015 Help Direct
    19/02/2015 Heads Recruitment
    26/02/2015 Burrell Enterprise
    24/02/2015 Army
    23/02/2015 Oaks Hotel
    19/03/2015 Key Appointments
    12/03/2015 Work Start

    The Army have attended every week on Tuesdays, since week commencing 6
    January 2015,
    Employers attending Job Fairs held at Burnley Jobcentre:

    RTT Group, North Lancs Training Group, Army, Princes Trust, Avenir,
    McDonalds, RLC, Lancashire County Council, Training 2000.

    Accent, Transline, Princes Trust, JHP Training, CVS, Calico, Youth Action

    Lancashire County Council, Veka, Burnley Telematics, Express Gifts,
    Lancashire County Council Young Peoples Service, Training 2000, Neville
    Gee, Pro Direct Soccer Academy.



    March 25, 2015 at 8:39 pm

  21. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.


    March 25, 2015 at 11:06 pm

  22. Another Fine Mess

    March 26, 2015 at 11:05 am

    • Ryan is spot-on.

      “I am not sure how we reached the point where we need an inquiry to establish that stopping a person’s benefits to the level that they can’t feed themselves or their children may be wrong. But here we are, it seems. The recent MPs’ inquiry into the coalition’s benefits sanction system released its findings on Tuesday – a catalogue of cruelty with footnotes to add details of the claimants who have been starved.

      The report is damning. As it should be. We have watched a system develop in which it is normal for ordinary men and women to be thrown by their own government into financial and psychological crisis. The scale is staggering. More than 1 million jobseekers had their unemployment benefits stopped last year – and, as the report states, the government has failed to prove this is not “purely punitive”.

      Andrew Coates

      March 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      • Labour pledges to end dependency on food banks with welfare reforms.

        Party is promising to scrap benefit sanctions and low pay culture that it believes is forcing people to turn to food banks.



        March 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      • Admission of sanction targets, sanctions?

        Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.

        It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.


        March 26, 2015 at 2:40 pm

  23. For those who use Facebook. Data Protection.

    European Commission admits Safe Harbour framework cannot ensure privacy of EU citizens’ data when sent to the US by American internet firms



    March 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    • Shock, gasp, horror, like that was ever a surprise.

      Peoples data no matter how unimportant they think it is, is the new currency and has been since the early 2000s. Firstly people have to realise how a website stays afloat when itself isn’t a chargeable product.

      Advertising alone doesn’t produce enough revenue so the only remaining marketable commodity, is people data plain and simple.

      To demonstrate this deliberate act, name one single site that allows you to negotiate your DPA terms while registering ?

      Name one single website that doesn’t use IMPLIED CONSENT ?

      Lastly name one single website that allows you to circumnavigate all cookies throughout the duration of the websites use ?


      March 27, 2015 at 10:46 am


    Imagine there were no sanctions, no foodbanks, no bedroom tax, no benefit delays and no zero hours contracts. Oh, and the national minimum wage would be increased.

    Is it just imagination? We will see:



    March 26, 2015 at 2:49 pm

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