Gingerbread submission to the independent review of Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions

Published on 18 January 2014

Summary

Gingerbread welcomes the opportunity to input into the independent review of the operation of benefit sanctions in relation to the Jobseeker’s (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013. This response was submitted in 2014.

The overall level of sanctioning is high across all JSA claimants, indicating that the current provision is failing jobseekers. Worryingly, the high proportion of decisions that are overturned – particularly among single parents – suggests that sanctions are being inappropriately imposed on claimants. Unnecessary sanctioning could be avoided by ensuring that the parent flexibilities are properly understood by advisers and single parents. This would help to ensure that conditionality attached to jobseeking agreements is appropriate, taking into account the additional burden of caring responsibilities. Dealing with sanction referrals and appeals takes a significant amount of JCP staff time and resources; resources that could be re-directed to better serve claimants looking for work.

Key findings

  • A more preventative approach to sanctions is required, ensuring that single parent jobseekers have access to a thorough interview and information at the start of their claim
  • Jobcentre advisers and contractors of ‘back-to-work’ schemes should be able to demonstrate that the parent flexibilities are adhered to across all relevant interventions
  • Universal credit regulations should be amended to reinstate all the parent flexibilities are included and communicated to staff; as these safeguard ensure that caring responsibilities are taken into account
  • Better information and clear signposting regarding hardship payments and the appeals process are needed to help mitigate the loss of income for substantial periods of time.