One in seven single parents hit with benefit sanctions

Posted 12 April 2017

Gingerbread’s new report looks at the impact of the benefit sanctions regime on single parents

The government is systematically underestimating the risk of sanctions to single parents, according to new research from Gingerbread.

“On the rise: single parent sanctions in numbers” is a major new examination of the government’s ongoing commitment to stringent ‘conditionality’ in the welfare system – the ever tougher standards that claimants of jobseeker’s allowance must satisfy in order to receive benefits.

The findings include:

  • The risk of sanctions is far higher than the government claims – at its peak, around one in five single parents a year were referred for a sanction, and one in seven had a sanction imposed. [1]
  • Single parents are at particular risk of unfair sanctions – they’re more likely  than other claimants to get their sanction overturned [2]
  • Sanctions stop millions of pounds in benefit payments – £40 million has been stopped since new rules came in. [3]

The government defends the sanctions regime as a last resort, only used in a “tiny minority” of cases against those who deliberately refuse to cooperate. [4] Yet in the last decade, around 160,000 single parents have been sanctioned, affecting 250,000 children. And this new evidence suggests that sanctioning is a much more common threat since stricter rules were introduced in 2012. [5]

Gingerbread’s Research Officer, Sumi Rabindrakumar, commented:

“Single parents want to work – already two-thirds do. We know through our helpline, however, that single parents increasingly feel punished for being unable to juggle seeking work and looking after their children; this report confirms this is in fact a widespread experience. Parents not only fall foul of an inflexible system, but are also sanctioned for errors made by the DWP itself – with resulting hardships that risk pushing them further from work.

The findings are especially troubling since the new benefits system – universal credit – is set to increase the scope of conditionality, with 165,000 single parents of three and four year olds soon to be at risk of being sanctioned if they are not actively seeking work. The new changes will also see the introduction for the first time of ‘in-work conditionality,’ with single parents facing the prospect of sanctions if they don’t work enough hours or earn enough money.

Sumi Rabindrakumar:

“These are sobering findings, at a time when the government is dramatically increasing the reach of sanctions through welfare reform. All the evidence suggests that a system that is supposed to help people out of poverty all too often unfairly strips away vital financial support from those who need it most. Unfair sanctions put families under severe strain and waste government resources. The government can no longer afford to put off a proper review of the sanctions system.”

3 comments on “One in seven single parents hit with benefit sanctions

  1. I was sanctioned as a single parent, after working as a single parent 60hrs a week on minimum wage in 2010, I missed 1appointment as I had to try to find money that day to pay for basics for my child, had no choice but to prioritise that after attending interviews when I’d of nirmally had some time to get some additional given from a family friend. Being unable to do that due to interviews we did not have enough for food or gas. I only left my job as all those hours and was on,y scrimping by. Then on weeks were say my son was ill or they was any medical appointment etc.. Then I’d not have enough those months to pay all the bills and childcare, as that’s still charged if ur child is off sick.
    So on the months of no appointments for myself if my son or he had not been ill at all. Then any additional would go towards bills from any months days had to be taken off.

    Which is inevitable as a single parent they is no one else for your child’s medical appointments or when they are ill. Then they are your own medical appointments also and with skin disease and perio I had often appointments then also a fractured spine, however I carried on like that no better off unless I could attend every day the full 60 hrs per week all year round.

    Then after fleeing dv 300 miles and my at time 5 month old son and 11yr old son, having them on a cp plan as my ex, having debt he caused and constant attack on all I had to do after fleeing, having to spend on fuel to attend all multiagency appointments to get my children off this plan as my ex. Just as my youngest got to 2 on income support I had to attend interviews at jcp. My nearest jcp us a35miniute drive away and had attended first interview, the second I tried to reschedule as we had a medical appointment and tried to call for 3 days prior yet the line was just dead completely I kept trying and nothing.
    Then 2days after the date passed for the interview.
    I told them what has happened with the line I have been calling and calling the denied they being an issue. I told them I have the call logs with how long I wAs waiting on the lines each time I called and they were 17 of those in my call logs, the line was just not even ringing at all just a strange noise that I still waited on the lines in case they was some issue with ring tone that can be seen on my call logs minutes per call.

    They sanctioned me 40 off my benefits and rescheduled my appointment for 6weeks time. We had the sanctioned for 2months I was still legally fighting against my abusuve ex and not sleeping barely going through evidence and organising that for courts in order to protect my child. Plus attending all appointments 3days per week for the Cp plan social services would not take my children off till they knew what the courts decision would be on my ex and child contact. We were still paying debts as my ex and had moved to the middle of nowhere so had to fund the car too otherwise with such scarce public transport we would not if made it to much and within my eldest son schooling hours. I had many medical appointments as I was in bad health also and m eldest had an operation then my youngest had 2 and we all had many hospital appitments and the hospital is 1hr drive away. 2hrs on public transport and if miss a bus or train or say son at school for 8.50 and me and youngest leafy for app on public transport next bus would be waiting 50 minutes for so would of take 3hrs not being able to get their till 12.20 by the time walking for bus station to hospital etc. We would not get back for school finishing at all that they is no public transport to get to from my home. And us a 35 min walk for my eldest. In winter getting dark here at 3.30 and lack of outside lighting in rural location north. This was in 2015

    So it was utterly essential to keep m car running. Then this sanction was shocking it was their fault I could not get through I tried another number and that was the same this was all registered with length of time on call and how many times on my billing and phone log yet they refused to even look at it at all.

    Another time they did not just sanction me they stopped my benefits all together then made me set up another claim. Then did nit receive a single penny from them for 7minths this was in 2012 then I signed every 2weeks on jsa after resetting up after new application and had to orostituee myself as they would not pay me and citizens advice were no help at all. I asked them to represent me to apply for funding from charity funds etc a list of places I was eligible for they refused to take the list and said they will not apply to them and that they will use their own list of places u was not eligible for.

    Refused to correspond with DWP too. In the mean time my housing benefit was nit being paid too. That they would not reinstate as long as I was nit getting payment. Signing on and nit a penny then after several months told I’m nit entitled to jsa had been signing on every 2weeks fir nothing yet when squiring why I’d nit yet been paid before this every 2weeks I was told they behind with processing first payments etc.. I complained repeatedly via email that was ignored completely. I complained in leasing several times that was ignored completely. They are disgraceful.

    1. I an a single mum who is on universal credit and they r taking 300 pound a month off me my daughter has chronic constipation and can’t b potty trained and I have chrons disease and ulcerative colitis I go through 3-4 packs of nappies a week and Scottish welfare fund won’t help me neither will uc cut the money down its a disgrace

      1. I also have a rent top up to pay as well and now my landlords is chasing up a deposit which I do not have

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