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Benefit Sanctions Rate Under Universal Credit Twice The Rate Under Jobseeker’s Allowance.

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Benefit Sanctions Rise Under Universal Credit.

People may have thought that benefit sanctions had gone away.

Not only have they not disappeared into a new more liberal system but the numbers have got worse under Universal Credit.

Benefit sanctions may do more harm than good

The ultra-liberal Economist this week says,

Reforms to Britain’s welfare system are not nearly as helpful as their supporters claim

MORE than half Britain’s jobcentres now offer “universal credit”, which merges six working-age benefits into one. Most discussion of universal credit, which will eventually offer payments to one in four households, has been about its botched rollout. Less attention has been paid to its tough sanctions regime. Those who fail to comply with requirements that include spending 35 hours a week job-hunting may see their benefits docked. In America, where there is talk of tightening conditions for receiving food stamps, reformers are looking at the British experiment with interest.

From 2010 the coalition government enforced sanctions more vigorously still. Under universal credit, claimants who have received several sanctions are often made to serve them one after the other, rather than concurrently, as under the old system. Research by David Webster of Glasgow University suggests that the sanction rate for jobless universal-credit claimants is twice the rate for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), the old unemployment benefit.


…the government has published little research on the impact of the tightening since 2010, despite sitting on a mound of data.

A new paper in the Cambridge Journal of Economics offers a pessimistic assessment. Focusing on the period from 2001 to 2014, it finds that sanctions under JSA increase the flow of people into work—but only in the short run. It may be that claimants, fearful of having their money cut off, take the first job they find, which turns out not to suit them. This also suggests that they may be taking jobs which do not pay as well as they might. In a speech last year Michael Saunders of the Bank of England drew a link between tough welfare rules and recent low wage growth.

As the evidence builds, the government may at some point have to tweak its approach. A recent study by Rachel Loopstra of King’s College, London, and colleagues, finds some correlation between tougher benefit sanctions and a rise in the use of food banks. A government that tones down sanctions would doubtless be accused of going soft. But it would have the evidence on its side.

This is the source:


David Webster (Glasgow University)

Benefit Sanctions Statistics 24 July 2018

Of the 920,000 claimants on Universal Credit at May 2018, two-thirds (67.3%) were subject to conditionality. For the first time, a majority (50.7%) of all unemployed claimants were on UC rather than JSA. UC is now significantly boosting the number of people recorded as claimant unemployed, by making people look for work who would previously not have done.

In the 12 months ended January 2018 there were a total of approximately 355,000 sanctions before challenges on all the four benefits subject to conditionality (UC, JSA, ESA and IS). This compares to 383,000 in the 12 months to October 2017. Of the 355,000 sanctions, approximately 264,000 or almost three-quarters (74.4%) were on UC.

The overall rate of sanction under UC is typically around 5% per month, and the unemployed sanction rate within UC will be considerably higher. Only for relatively short periods in 2010-11 and 2012-14 has the JSA rate ever been as high as 5%.

This is the crucial section of the research:

The rate of sanction under Universal Credit continues to be strikingly high. It is typically around 5% per month, far higher than the rate for JSA. In fact only for relatively short periods in 2010-11 and 2012-14 has the JSA rate ever been as high as this. It also needs to be remembered that this overall UC rate includes sanctions on groups with much lower sanction rates than the unemployed. The unemployed accounted for under three-quarters of the UC claimants subject to conditionality in the three months to January 2018. The unemployed sanction rate within UC will therefore be considerably higher than the overall rate shown in Figure 2.

Thus, “sanctions don’t just ‘appear’ higher in UC; they are higher.”

“Since summer 2017 about 8 % or 1 in 12 of all unemployed UC claimants has been serving a sanction at any one time, this proportion having reached a peak of over 10% in March 2017.  The proportion under sanction for unemployed claimants is now higher than it was when the statistics began in August 2015 – about 8% compared to about 6%, whereas for all other groups it is similar or lower. Evidently the administration of UC has become harsher towards unemployed claimants as the system has bedded in. Moreover it must be remembered that if 8% of claimants are under sanction at any one time, the proportion sanctioned at some point during, say, a year, will be much higher.

The second highest proportion under sanction is found among in-work claimants, running at around 2% except at the time of the backlog drive in early 2017. Rates for the other groups are around 1%.

A striking feature of the figures is that there are people serving sanctions who are in the groups which are not supposed to be subject to conditionality at all: ‘no working requirements’ and ‘working – no requirements’.

At January 2018 there were a total of 1,108 people in this position. This is  because they will have received a sanction when they were in a different group which was subject to conditionality.

One of the many problematic consequences of the ‘simplification’ of benefits by combining them into UC is that sanctions follow claimants into no-conditionality groups even though there is no longer any point to them. Previously the sanctions would have lapsed when people moved to another benefit. The number of people in this position will grow as UC expands.

Some other key findings from this survey of UC claimants relevant to issues of conditionality are:

  • Fewer than two-thirds (63%) of claimants thought their Claimant Commitment was achievable, and only 54% and 55% respectively thought that it took account of their personal circumstances and would help them to obtain or increase employment (p.41)
  • Around 40% of claimants found it difficult to complete the hours of work search or preparation required by their Claimant Commitment, and almost half (47%) had completed fewer hours. (p.59)
  • For around one third of those finding it difficult to meet the Claimant Commitment, the main reason was a lack of jobs available in their area. Suitability of the claimant’s skills, childcare responsibilities, and health problems were other common factors. (p.60)
  • Meetings with the Work Coach and the online Journal were generally favourably regarded, with around three-quarters taking a positive view (pp.50-51)
  • long-term health condition (55 per cent). This suggests a serious mismatch between requirements and capabilities. (p.28)
  • Claimants were asked to identify circumstances that could lead to a sanction. The circumstance which was least often correctly identified (by 80% of claimants) was failing to apply for a job when required by the Work Coach. This is serious as this carries the heaviest penalty, a ‘higher level’ sanction of three months for a first ‘failure’. (p.43)
  • Two thirds (64%) of those sanctioned considered their sanction to have been unfair (p.52)
  • 10% of those sanctioned did not know or understand the reason, while 7% believed that the sanction was due to an error made by the Jobcentre (p.52)

Observer May 2018.

Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes

Benefit sanctions are ineffective at getting jobless people into work and are more likely to reduce those affected to poverty, ill-health or even survival crime, the UK’s most extensive study of welfare conditionality has found.

The five-year exercise tracking hundreds of claimants concludes that the controversial policy of docking benefits as punishment for alleged failures to comply with jobcentre rules has been little short of disastrous.

“Benefit sanctions do little to enhance people’s motivation to prepare for, seek or enter paid work. They routinely trigger profoundly negative personal, financial, health and behavioural outcomes,” the study concludes.

Despite claims by ministers in recent years that rigorously enforced conditionality – including mandatory 35-hour job searches – incentivised claimants to move off benefits into work, the study found the positive impact was negligible.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2018 at 10:31 am

34 Responses

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  1. It should be obvious to everyone that sanctions are used to save as much money as possible regardiless of weather the person/s is at fault or not.


    August 10, 2018 at 11:14 am

  2. This may be cost cutting as well, but it would be quicker.

    Andrew Coates

    August 10, 2018 at 11:22 am

  3. “A government that tones down sanctions would doubtless be accused of going soft. But it would have the evidence on its side.”

    The present government and the one before it seems not to give a monkey’s about evidence, cherry picking the few favourable statistics available and completely ignoring, even burying, data or evidence contrary to the “good news” that it wants to sell to the public. Just go on to Twitter and peruse the DWP, Esther McVey or Theresa May feeds. This is the problem with the government because it detaches it from reality.

    Life for the needy under the Tories has become a fairy tale… Grimm!

    Atilla the Gardener

    August 10, 2018 at 11:26 am

  4. Andrew Coates

    August 10, 2018 at 2:36 pm

  5. One of the very ugliest things about Universal Credit is that it sets people up to fail by design, insisting that they do far too many, frequently impossible things, day after day, day in and day out, week in and week out, with DWP invigilators waiting for them to make the inevitable stumble, error, or mistake and come crashing down on them like a tonne of bricks with a disproportionate and ridiculously severe undeserved sanction.

    The system is so preposterously complicated it is impossible for most people to juggle and keep so many balls into the air without eventually dropping one to earth. This is why so many people are getting sanctioned at the whim of very junior civil servants in Jobcentres: many work coaches sanction first and leave it to anonymous decision makers to sort the guilty from the innocent even though, when sanctioned, the penalty is invoked immediately without proof of wrongdoing.

    With Universal Credit claimants are guilty until proven innocent, the opposite on the normal legal process.


    August 10, 2018 at 4:41 pm

  6. I’m glad I’m still on JSA but that will change next year. The conditionality is cruel but looks likely to remain whoever is in government. Not many voices among the labour MP’s appear to care. Interesting to see that the USA are watching with interest how things go. Can we really treat our poor worse than the USA does?


    August 10, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    • Things are still better in the UK than the USA. In many states in the US you only get five years of welfare support during your lifetime, which means that once you have been unemployed for over five years, cumulatively, adding up all the periods of unemployment during your life, you get no more help from the government for the rest of your life.


      Hopefully this won’t eventually happen in the UK, although Cameron was thinking about it during his first term as prime minister and considering “time limiting” benefits so that the longer you are on them the less you get.

      America is a truly terrible country to end up poor in.


      August 10, 2018 at 6:56 pm

  7. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, you could.

    Now Hammond the Chancer wants to impose an ‘Amazon tax’ obsensibly to ‘save the High Street’. Whoa, steady there Trigger. This isn’t a tax ON Amazon, that would be ridiculous in the extreme. It is a tax on Amazon SHOPPERS!

    “Philip Hammond wants level playing field with online firms as Sports Direct buys stores

    The government has hinted it could impose an “Amazon tax” on online sales as House of Fraser became the latest high street retailer to go into administration.

    The stricken department store chain, shorn of its debts and pension fund, was immediately snapped up by Sports Direct, the sportswear chain controlled by Mike Ashley, in a £90m rescue deal. The deal will protect 16,000 jobs for the time being”


    Pinnochio's Sister

    August 11, 2018 at 8:33 am

    • Basically a higher rate of VAT on online sales. We can add that to the sugar tax, fat tax and salt tax, biscuit tax… Perhaps if the Tory party hadn’t imposed years of unnecessary ‘austerity’ and played internal political games the High Street would be in a much better shape and we wouldn’t be living off off pound shop biscuits.

      The High Street is being forced out of business DELIBERATELY by a mix of national and local government policies. Local councils in particular are doing their level best to close down the High Street. The Town Hall’s weapon of choice is extortionate business rates.

      In any case, online is not necessarily any cheaper in the first place and if you are not careful can be a lot more expensive.

      This has shades of universal credit. We are being FORCED online. We are being FORCED into an online cashless matrix. A matrix where the government, Hammond and big business lie in wait. Lying in wait to give us one hard up the rear.

      Savvy Shopper

      August 11, 2018 at 8:59 am

    • Basically a higher rate of VAT on online sales. We can add that to the sugar tax, fat tax, salt tax, biscuit tax… Perhaps if the Tory party hadn’t imposed years of unnecessary ‘austerity’ and played internal political games with ‘Brexit’ the High Street would be in a much better shape and we wouldn’t be living off off pound shop biscuits.

      The High Street is being forced out of business DELIBERATELY by a mix of national and local government policies. Local councils in particular are doing their level best to close down the High Street. The Town Hall’s weapon of choice is extortionate business rates.

      In any case, online is not necessarily any cheaper in the first place and if you are not careful can be a lot more expensive.

      This has shades of universal credit. We are being FORCED online. We are being FORCED into an online cashless matrix. A matrix where the government, Hammond and big business lie in wait. Lying in wait to give us one hard up the rear.

      Savvy Shopper

      August 11, 2018 at 9:00 am

    • Amazon treat their staff like crap, making them work long and tiring 12 hour shifts for minimum wages and avoid paying tax by all manner of tricks. If there is any company in the world that needs to be taxed for the privilege of extracting billions upon billions of pounds in profit from British market it’s Amazon. It’s about time that online sellers made bigger, much bigger contributions to the country for making so much money from it.


      August 12, 2018 at 6:52 am

      • Yeah, but Hammond can’t even be arsed collecting Amazon’s dues as it is. So what is he wanking off about? The only extra tax on Amazon that Hammond could conceivably collect is extra VAT. Do Amazon even file their VAT returns? This might work because Amazon couldn’t swallow the extra tax by adjusting their margin. All it would do is make it more expensive for Amazon shoppers.


        August 12, 2018 at 7:37 am

  8. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.


    August 11, 2018 at 9:47 am

  9. Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.


    August 11, 2018 at 10:39 am

  10. RM – the inconvenient truth.

    If you’ve ever been banned online from a forum and gone through their appeal process your already be aware of how RM is nothing more than a kangaroo court, be it that websites do it in the first instance.
    When a person in the first instance has a doubt raised against them, the decision maker is supposed to impartially assess the circumstances leading up to the charge being leveled (ie did they or did they not).
    Now, by the time you come to an RM that whether its actually the case or not (innocent but found guilty of or actually guilty of), the charge has already been applied. So the decision maker during RM only assesses whether or not the charge was applied/administered correctly (correct procedure applied) so its not a re-hearing of the initial argument that was to establish guilt or the absence of it.
    Its easy to see this when you read the CRMR1 form quote,

    “You can use this form to ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration if you
    don’t agree with a decision. This means a decision maker will look at
    your claim again and see if the decision was right or wrong”.

    Decision – A conclusion reached after an evaluation of facts and law. A pronouncement you will know as a judgement.


    August 11, 2018 at 10:51 am

  11. Decision makers are not judges

    The first thing someone would say is, “then how comes they can stop your money”. Well the same way the police can detain you for a period of time against your will based on suspicion of.
    As it has been witnessed while DWP can withhold a persons money via sanction, they have to if so ordered by a judge of the court, remove such an action and compensate full value unless they can show just grounds for an appeal and are successful in that appeal.

    All DWP can do is suspend, they cant actually legally arbitrate over a legal dispute which is the reserve of a court judge who has the final say on whether or not the rule applies in a case and how the law is applied based on their impartial yet personal interpretation of said law. Only a judge can overturn another judge.
    It would be a conflict of interest and morally and ethically wrong to allow a body to act as enforcer,judge and jury as then there would be no legal oversight.
    DWP issue a sanction based on a suspicion they feel is accountable via the evidence they would be expected to present before a judge should they be so summoned to. You would observe in the case of the police, they defer responsibility after the fact to CPS who even when rules against wont change their stance and why would they when their sole duty is to establish guilt. So a claimant should view a work coach as an enforcer (police person), the decision maker/DWP as a prosecutor in the case of a sanction.

    You have to be able to destroy their case prior to tribunal for them to drop it which is often easier said than done when they are predisposed as i said to only establishing guilt and would naturally be biased as its their system on trial here. Only by removing their ability to oversee the proceedings can it truly begin to be seen as impartial.


    August 11, 2018 at 11:45 am

    • Trouble is when people get sanctioned most just bend over and take it, doug, especially if the sanction isn’t a long lasting one. Sanctions are a “shoot first and ask questions later” policy which most people don’t challenge unless they are knowledgeable, well advised, or desperate.


      August 11, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      • doug they dont wanna play with me anymore since the last sanction i just sign on and go its like the reset button has been pressed pmsl.

        looks like im of the easy target list atm 😉


        August 11, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      • The motto is always appeal.

        These sanctions started coming in the late 1980’s with income support.Previously a letter arrived asking what and when was the last job applied for at random.Sanctions have becomme steadily worse and worse with claiment commitments being the main culprit along with unscrupulous behaviour the most vulnerable with learning problems being the most at risk also the expence of home computers’ and internet access is also an issue.

        Mimic the world of work its a pity it doesn’t pay a decent level of benefit to match.Demand it all but don’t want to pay.


        August 11, 2018 at 9:45 pm

  12. “A Third of UK’s universal credit claimants hit by deductions from payments”



    August 12, 2018 at 7:58 am

  13. The Government is full of shit! We will tell you why as a nation we are getting FATTER. Because it is too FUCKING EXPENSIVE TO eat healthy. Take apples as one of numerous examples. Nearly £5 for a bag of six.. For the same price you can fill a trolley with 16 packets of biscuits. You will never guess what we bought. We don’t fill the fruit bowl for us and the kids – because we simply CANNOT AFFORD TO. Instead we fill the biscuit barrel. Yes, it is not doing our waistlines any good, and we know it is not good for our kids but what choice do we have?

    The exorbitant price of BASICS such as apples really need to be addressed. Instead the Government response is utter horse-shit such as the ‘sugar tax’.

    And why are BASICS such as apples cheap and plentiful outwith the UK, Eastern Europe and Asia for example.

    Are we still living under this dumb-fuck Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) whereby basics such as apples and burned or thrown in the sea to maintain an artificially prices. Will be still be living under CAP come Brexit?

    The Skints

    August 12, 2018 at 9:03 am

  14. Motion backed by the Clarion magazine to Labour Party Conference:


    We note
    • the 8 August ONS figures showing that improvement in life expectancy has virtually stopped.
    • the 6 August Child Poverty Action Group report on how Universal Credit’s flaws are leading to low-income families arbitrarily losing as much as £258 a month!
    • the July Resolution Foundation figures showing the poorest third’s incomes fell last year, even before inflation.

    The situation is shameful. We must reverse the drive, accelerating since 2010, to make welfare less and less about supporting those in need and more and more stingy, punitive and coercive.

    Neither Universal Credit nor the existing framework (JSA, ESA, etc) are good. We must redesign benefits in close consultation with recipients, workers and their organisations.

    This must be part of a wider anti-poverty programme, with a goal that by the end of our first term foodbanks disappear.

    We commit to
    1. Ending the benefit freeze; uprating with inflation or earnings, whichever is higher.
    2. Reversing all cuts/reductions; increasing benefits to afford a comfortable, not minimum, income.
    3. Entitlement conditions that are straightforward, inclusive and available to all, including migrants (scrap ‘No recourse to public funds’).
    4. Paying benefits for all children and dependents.
    5. Abolishing all sanctions.
    6. Scrapping Work Capability and similar assessments.
    7. Relevant health issues being addressed using medical professionals with appropriate knowledge of individuals’ conditions and disabilities.
    8. Delivery by paid public servants via networks accessible to everyone, including provision of face-to-face support for all who need it. Reversing DWP cuts and privatisation.


    Andrew Coates

    August 12, 2018 at 11:55 am

    • Sounds good.

      I wonder how far any of it will get.

      Many of us remember that it was the Labour party which commissioned the report from the Portland Trust written by David Freud, in three weeks, which James Purnell took on board, invited Freud to be a special advisor, and brought private companies like the infamous ATOS into welfare provision and administration for the first time. Freud was later ennobled by the Tories to enable him, although not elected, to become Minister for Welfare Reform, giving us terrible things like the Bedroom Tax, Work Capability Assessment and Universal Credit in concert with Iain Duncan Smith, all of which have driven people to suicide or a premature grave.

      Labour have been very quiet about Universal Credit, benefit cap, freeze and many other things.

      Sorry to play the devil’s advocate but I don’t trust any politicians from any party any more.


      August 13, 2018 at 10:54 am

      • Yes, it’s not a good sign when the idea, which will never happen, of Basic Income got floated as the flagship party proposal whole not doing anything serious about these issues:

        Example from today:

        Andrew Coates

        August 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      • Labour were also the party which first advocated the “Active Welfare State” in which people on benefits were forced to work for nothing on their New Deal and later Flexible New Deal programmes. Labour so far hasn’t made it position clear of issues like these and so I’m haven’t got a lot of confidence that things would improve much for the hard done by if Labour won power whenever the next general election is held.


        August 13, 2018 at 3:46 pm

  15. Videos’ like this show the system isn’t working.


    August 12, 2018 at 2:24 pm

  16. Blockchain and benefits – a dangerous mix?

    The government has quietly launched a bold experiment using the technology behind the virtual currency Bitcoin – and, if anybody notices, it could prove hugely controversial. That is because the trial involves the payment of benefits and could conceivably involve very sensitive data being made public – or at least that’s the concern of some critics.

    There is a huge amount of excitement around now about the Blockchain, with endless academic studies and a good deal of investment reinforcing the belief that a permanent ever-expanding and tamper-proof online ledger of transactions must have all sorts of wider applications.

    Earlier this year the government’s chief scientific advisor Mark Walport wrote a report on blockchain – or distributed ledger technology – which was enthusiastic about its potential to produce “disruptive innovations that could transform the delivery of public and private services and enhance productivity through a wide range of applications.” He recommended that the government should back trials of the technology while also looking carefully at the security and privacy implications of using it.

    Now, the first real trial is underway, revealed without any fanfare by the welfare minister Lord Freud at a conference last week.

    The Department of Work and Pensions tell me it began in May, will run for up to six months, and is designed to look at how the technology might help benefit claimants manage their money. Up to 24 welfare claimants will use an app provided by a company called Govcoin to track their spending.

    But this news sounded alarm bells amongst some of those who have been involved in framing the government’s technology policies. Their concern is that the payment of benefits is not the right place to start this journey of blockchain exploration.

    One recently departed member of the Government Digital Service told me of his amazement that this trial was being allowed to go ahead. His most serious concern was about the privacy implications of putting highly sensitive personal data on a shared ledger “which, by technical design, can never be changed or deleted even if it’s inaccurate”.

    He also has a theory that the trial – though billed as a way for claimants to manage their money better – could also be “a potentially efficient way for DWP to restrict, audit and control exactly what each benefits payment is actually spent on, without the government being perceived as a big brother”.

    He sees the possibility that in the future the government could then use the technology to force people to spend benefits on certain things – to make sure, for instance that pensioners spent their winter fuel allowance on their energy bills.

    “[That would be a] highly political idea. To hide it behind hyped up blockchain technobabble is not on,” he said.

    It seems there is also concern in Whitehall about the process by which this trial came to be approved. The chief scientific advisor had wanted a Cabinet Office committee to vet all the various blockchain ideas coming out of different government departments.

    It seems that committee has yet to be formed, but another insider has indicated to me that if it had been, the DWP trial would have been quite far down the list for approval.

    I put these criticisms to the Department for Work and Pensions.

    I was told that any data involved in the trial would be handled by the private company running it and personal information would be removed before it reached the department.

    “There are no plans to replace any DWP payment systems,” a spokesman said.

    “This trial is designed to explore how distributed ledger technology could help support financial inclusion and offer budgeting help, and it does not place any restrictions or limits on what a claimant can spend their welfare payments on, nor tracks how they spend them.”

    There is plenty of enthusiasm for the potential of blockchain to deliver improvements to public services – albeit some time in the quite distant future. But the worry now is that if the first trials go down the wrong path, then public trust in the technology could be irredeemably damaged



    August 13, 2018 at 1:37 pm

  17. Unemployment might be down but the claimant count of people reliant on state benefits is up again.


    We cant really celebrate as its only adds insult to injury to only find more and more workers are state reliant dew to poor wages and hours.


    August 14, 2018 at 9:00 am

    • The best way out of poverty isn’t always work. Plenty of people in work are dirt poor these days. But never mind the Tories are planning to build about 12,000 council houses over the next several years, so that’s alright then isn’t it?


      August 14, 2018 at 9:30 am

  18. Celebrate good times, c, mon 😀

    UK unemployment at lowest since 1975

    UK unemployment fell by 65,000 to 1.36 million in three months to June – the lowest for more than 40 years, official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.


    Cool MvVey and the Gang

    August 14, 2018 at 9:06 am

    • It doesn’t fell like that though does it? When I look around me and see the potholes in the roads and people dossing down under shrubbery I don’t feel like I’m living in a dynamic, successful and healthy country do you?


      August 14, 2018 at 9:32 am

      • You don’t because statistics aren’t representative of truth and to often are geared to seek middle ground.


        August 15, 2018 at 10:27 am

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