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Has the government deliberately covered up sanction figures?

This news post is over 8 years old

UK government accused of covering up true extent of "pernicious" sanction regime

A spat has broken out after UK government ministers were accused of deliberately covering up benefit sanction figures.

Green Party spokesman Jonathan Bartley demanded the government release realistic figures after a response to a parliamentary question by Baroness Jenny Jones confirmed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) used sanctions 605,592 times against benefit claimants last year.

But Bartley accused the DWP of using a statistical sleight of hand to cover up the true figure, giving just a “monthly ratio” — the average number of sanctions in a month divided by the total number of unemployed people — of 6%.

Instead, a more accurate figure would be achieved if taken over the whole year, which involves dividing the annual sanctions total by the full unemployed figure for the year.

Once again, the government is misrepresenting figures to cover up the full extent of its pernicious sanctions regime

In 2014 about 3.6 million people had to sign on the dole, which suggests that about 17% had been hit.

“Once again, the government is misrepresenting figures to cover up the full extent of its pernicious sanctions regime. The DWP clearly has something to hide,” said Bartley.

Government advisers have demanded a review of the Tories’ benefit sanctions regime, following months of criticism over its devastating impact on the disabled, single parents and ethnic minority children.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises the government on social policies, insists the policy of scrapping claimants’ benefits payments must be stopped.

It warns the measure should not be resumed until “a firm evidence base” has been established for its effectiveness.

Bartley added: “The use of sanctions is clearly far more widespread than the government is admitting and this is taking a terrible toll, not just on jobseekers but also on their families and children.”