Over zealous DWP indiscriminately sanctioning claimants
Half of all sanctions taken against benefit claimants are wrongly imposed, new figures have shown.
Government statistics show 50% of sanctions imposed against those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are overturned on appeal since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012.
Some 575,901 sanctions were challenged with an astonishing 285,327 being overturned.
Commenting on the findings, SNP welfare spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said: “The sanctions regime instituted by the UK government is causing heartache and misery to hundreds of thousands of people across the UK – and the fact that half of all those challenged are overturned is deeply concerning.
“We have already heard the heartbreaking stories of claimants being sanctioned whilst in hospital recovering from a heart attack or other medical emergency, but these figures lay bare the sanction now, ask questions later nature of the UK government’s indefensible regime."
The findings suggest that a greater number of benefit sanctions could be reversed if more claimants challenged adverse decisions.
These figures lay bare the ‘sanction now, ask questions later’ nature of the UK government’s indefensible regime - Eilidh Whiteford
Claimants can ask for adverse decisions to be reviewed by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision makers. If this is unsuccessful they can then lodge an appeal within a month of receiving the reconsideration notice.
John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said people are being sanctioned wrongly and it is having a damaging impact not on their health and their families’ well-being.
“It shows how unfair the regime is," he said.
“What’s also very worrying is that there have been many decisions wrongly made, but have not been challenged or appealed.
“Many people don’t understand they have been sanctioned and are unable, or lack the support, to go through the process of appeal.”
Four weeks is the minimum amount of time a claimant is sanctioned for but the amount of time can prove devastating if, for example, a person leaves a job without good reason, which can see their benefits halted for a minimum of 16 weeks, rising to 26 weeks and more.
Emma Ritch, executive director of women’s rights organisation Engender, added: “We should have a social security system that guarantees an adequate standard of living to every Scot.
“Instead, we have a dehumanising and institutionally mistrustful muddle.
“Women are twice as dependent on social security as men, and the slew of cuts that have been badged as “welfare reform” have mostly come at the expense of women.
“Sanctions mean mothers going hungry to ensure that their children can eat, women struggling without adequate sanitary protection and reducing women’s capacity to escape domestic abuse,” she said.