Benefit sanctions inquiry: Gingerbread written submission to the Work and Pensions select committee

Published on 25 May 2018


Gingerbread’s research shows that – contrary to government intentions – sanctions are not an effective tool to ensure either job-seeking behaviour among single parent claimants or effective public spending.

The government must overhaul ‘conditionality’ (the rules setting job-seeking expectations) and sanctions policy to avoid the devastating impact of benefit sanctions on single parents and their families and genuinely support claimants towards employment.

Key findings

  • Benefit sanctions do not fulfil the government’s intentions to change behaviour (thereby moving people into work), nor to ensure ‘fairness for the taxpayer’
  • Single parent benefit sanctions tend to arise due to one-off errors or a fundamental difficulty in meeting job-seeking expectations due to barriers to work (eg needing flexible or part-time work, and accessible childcare)
  • As a result, sanctions are used to police a tick-box approach to assessing single parents’ job-seeking, rather than targeting an actual lack of motivation to (seek) work
  • Benefit sanctions have a devastating financial and emotional impact on single parents and their families
  • Benefit sanctions can move single parents further from work, by being unable to avoid travel to interviews or jobcentre appointments, causing debt and insecurity and damaging the work coach-claimant relationship
  • A significant realignment of sanctions policy is needed to ensure it is genuinely targeting non-compliance and used as a ‘last resort’ as purported by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

A system of ‘last resort’ would involve:

  • Limited use of financial penalties
  • A robust warning and review system, supported by well-resourced and trained work coaches
  • Fairer conditionality, with transparent processes for agreeing and reviewing job-seeking expectations.