Interesting letter from the Guardian about benefit sanctions….
Your report about targets for benefit sanctions makes disturbing reading (Whistleblower says DWP staff given targets to stop benefits, 10 December). The Department for Work and Pensions recently announced that there were 553,000 benefit sanctions between November 2012, when the new sanctions regime started, and June 2013. This is an extraordinarily high rate and compares with an average of 300,000 a year between 2001 and 2210, according to the New Policy Institute.
Sanctions have been a necessary feature of the National Insurance system since its inception, but recently they have become far too prevalent. They often deprive people of financial support for trivial reasons – eg a blind man for not going after a cleaning job, or a man who failed to sign on when he was on a DWP training programme. A survey by Greater Manchester Citizens Advice found that two-thirds of those sanctioned were left without any income. The rapid expansion offood banks is partly due to benefit sanctions.
As a former senior manager of UK jobcentre services, I am sure that the present high rates are driven from the top in some way by performance management systems. Are ministers unaware of the vast literature about the demoralising effects of prolonged unemployment? Sanctions on this scale increase debt, demoralisation and despair and make people less rather than more job ready. Ian Duncan Smith should agree to the proposal from Church Action on Poverty, the Trussell Trust and the Child Poverty Action Group for a wide-ranging independent inquiry into benefit sanctions and their effects.