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Staggering one-in-five benefit claimants sanctioned

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Analysis of government figures reveals massive rise in sanctions

Benefit sanctions were meted out to a staggering one in five jobseekers between 2013-4, new research has revealed.

A study of UK government figures by the University of Glasgow that 568,430 of the 3,097,630 individuals who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) during 2013/14 were sanctioned.

The research, by Dr David Webster from the university’s Urban Studies department, also discovered many claimants had be sanctioned more than once.
It draws into question the claim by government ministers that sanctions are only used as a last resort.

Although the percentage of JSA claimants sanctioned each month stands at an average 6.5%, this figure masks the cumulative effect as many claimants are barred from benefits for months, even years.

“If 5-6% of claimants are being sanctioned every month, the proportion will grow as time goes on”, says Dr Webster.

Some 30.9% of individual JSA claimants in the year to June 2014 were sanctioned more than once with 12.5% three times or more.

The study also shows the Work Programme continues to deliver far more JSA sanctions than JSA job outcomes.

Up to 30 September 2014 there had been 345,640 JSA Work Programme job outcomes and 575,399 JSA Work Programme sanctions.

If 5-6% of claimants are being sanctioned every month, the proportion will grow as time goes on

“The fact that the number of people claiming JSA over five years is so much larger than the number claiming at any one time exposes the mendacity of the argument that claimants are getting something for nothing unless they are made to engage in artificially imposed job search requirements, or sent on workfare schemes,” said Webster.

And his analysis shows that there were at least 93,410 children in households affected by sanctions, of whom at least 89,300 children in 46,160 households were affected by JSA sanctions and 4,110 children in 2,290 households by ESA sanctions.

“It can be inferred that one dependent child will be affected for approximately every six JSA claimants who are sanctioned,” added Webster.

It comes on the heels of a report last week which said around 6,500 children in Scotland were hit by benefit sanctions last year.

The report from a coalition of churches condemned the sanctions system – the withdrawal of benefits for those deemed not to be properly seeking work – as one of the “most severe in the developed world”.

A Department of Works and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The truth is that every day Jobcentre Plus advisers work hard to help claimants into work – unemployment is falling and a record number of people are in work.

“Sanctions are only used as a last resort for the tiny minority who fail to take up the support which is on offer.”