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.
- 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.