The number of employment and support allowance claimants being hit by sanctions has increased by 25% in a single month, DWP figures released today reveal. The vast majority of sanctions are for failure to take part in work-related activities, often because claimants are too ill to do so.
The latest statistics, which run up to the end of December 2014, show that ESA sanctions have increased from 2,626 in November 2014 to 3,274 in December. This is the highest number of sanctions since May 2014.
Just 16% of sanctions were for failure to attend an interview. The other 84% were for failure to participate in work-related activity.
Previously released statistics show that a disproportionate number of ESA claimants who are sanctioned have a mental health condition or learning disability
Very often the failure to participate stems from the fact that the claimant was not able to undertake the activity, for example because their health condition meant they could not travel or they could not cope with attending a group activity at an unfamiliar venue.
The reality is that the work programme has primarily become a means to stop ESA claimants’ benefits rather than a method of helping people move closer to employment. Benefits and Work expects to see the sanctions numbers continue to rise over the coming months and years.