A report published this week by Salford City Council has found that DWP sanctions, far from encouraging claimants into work, lead to lead to suicide, crime and being “bullied off the books”.
The report, ‘DWP Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – one year on’ builds on a previous report by the same authors.
They challenge the DWP’s claim that the number of benefits sanctions is falling. Instead, they point out, the number of claimants is falling but the proportion who are sanctioned has remained the same. The authors suggest that one of the reasons for the falling claimant count may be the growing number of “disappeared” claimants who move off benefits but not into work.
It found that the impact on families who have their benefits sanctioned can be “devastating”.
Even what the DWP regard as lower level, four week sanction can cause:
“both immediate and longer term impact as most people do not have the means to save, so have no safety net. This presents an emergency need for money to buy food, pay for heating and essential
The report also found that sanctions cause:
- build-up of unnecessary debt as claimants cannot pay bills or then borrow at high cost in order to meet their essential needs;
- exacerbation of existing debt issues where people already have problem debt;
- rent arrears where Housing Benefit is affected placing accommodation at risk;
- additional barriers to employment as a result of the distress and financial hardship caused by a sudden loss of income;
- stress affecting mental and physical wellbeing;
- damage to mental health which could lead to self-harm or suicide;
- tension within family relationships;
- a likelihood that claimants may commit crime, including shoplifting;
- people “bullied off the books” – the “disappeared” who stop claiming social security benefits.