Independent Review of DWP benefit Sanctions

DWP briefing Department for Work & Pensions Group
To: Branch Secretaries, Additional Branch Contact, Regional Secretaries, and GEC. Date: 21 November 2013 DWP/BB/150/13
The Government has appointed Matthew Oakley to conduct an Independent Review of sanctions in relation to Back to Work Schemes such as Mandatory Work Activity, Skills Conditionality and the Work Programme. Contributions have been invited from staff dealing with this type of work, claimants and external/partner organisations to sanctions.review2013@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.
The review focuses on:  To what extent do JSA claimants understand that when they are referred to a ‘back-to-work’ scheme (such as the Work Programme) their benefit may be sanctioned if they don’t take part?  To what extent does a claimant’s failure to meet their conditions arise from them not having a sufficient understanding of what is expected? Are there ways in which this could be made clearer to them?  Do sanctioned claimants understand why they have been sanctioned, and if not are there ways in which this could be made clearer to them?  Do sanctioned claimants feel informed throughout the sanctions process, and if not how could their awareness be improved?  To what extent are sanctioned claimants aware of the help available to them from Jobcentre Plus? For instance are they aware of how to appeal a decision or how to seek help through hardship payments? Are there ways in which this could be made clearer to them?
PCS Participation
The Group Executive Committee (GEC) will be submitting a response to the review. Although members can send individuals views in, we ask Branches and members to e-mail leeds@pcs.org.uk with their contributions by 10th December to form part of the union’s collective response.
The GEC believes the review is a good opportunity for the union to expose:
 The pressure members are under to refer and impose sanctions  Evidence of continuing management targets or ‘expectations’ on sanctions  The management tactics used to pressurise members into imposing sanctions  The social consequences of sanctions on JSA customers  The impact on our members having to operate the sanctioning regime
The recent publication of sanctions data shows that there have been 0.58 million sanctions from October 2012 to June 2013. There has been an average of 69,000 referrals a month which is an increase of 75%, and an overall increase of 137% in the last 10 years. PCS believes it is no coincidence that the use of foodbanks has tripled in the last year. The impact of sanctioning is devastating for claimants and their families, and makes jobcentres an increasingly confrontational and dangerous place to work.
3rd Floor, Town Centre House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8LY. Tel: 0113 200 5300 Fax: 0113 200 5301 Email: leeds@pcs.org.uk http://www.pcs.org.uk/dwp Have you updated your details yet? http://www.pcs.org.uk/getthemessage
It is therefore very important that members use this opportunity to feed in their views to this review.
The GEC has provided updates to Branches and members on sanctioning and conditionality issues in the following circulars: DWP/BB/129/13, DWP/BB/116/13, DWP/BB/044/13, DWP/BB/137/12, DWP/BB/138/12, DWP/BB/131/12, DWP/BB/076/12.
Along with challenging the employer using employee relations routes, and through gathering evidence of ‘perverse’ behaviour and performance improvement plans relating to sanction referrals, the GEC is also stepping up our campaigning work to oppose the sanctioning regime.

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