Login FormClose

Free ESA, PIP and DLA Updates

With over 140,000 subscribers our fortnightly updates bulletin is the UK's leading source of benefits news. Get the facts about what's changing, how it affects you and how to prepare.   Get your free benefits updates now.

The introduction of a pilot scheme to trial ‘yellow cards’ for benefits sanctions next year has been widely condemned as not going far enough to make sanctions fairer, even by the companies making profits from welfare to work contracts.

Yellow cards
In the face of continued pressure over the harshness of the benefits sanctions regime, the DWP have announced that they are to pilot a yellow card scheme. The effect will be that a sanction decision will no longer take effect immediately. Instead, there will be a 14 day period in which the claimant can put forward evidence showing why the sanction is unreasonable.

If the DWP accept that the evidence shows the sanction is wrong it will not be imposed.

The DWP also say that they have:

‘issued new guidance to Jobcentre Plus staff to improve awareness of vulnerability and how conditionality can be varied.’

In addition, they say they ‘accepted in principle the need:

  • to make hardship payments available from day one of a sanction;
  • to remove the necessity of a separate application process for a hardship payments for vulnerable claimants and those with dependent children;
  • and to extend the definition of groups considered "at risk" for hardship purposes to include those with mental health conditions and those that are homeless.’

Not far enough
However, the new policy has already come under attack from the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the group which represents welfare to work companies.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive, said:

“We welcome the recognition by the Secretary of State that the sanctions system is in need of reform, but are concerned that the changes today don’t go far enough. For some jobseekers, receiving a sanction can act as a ‘wake up’ call. However, for the majority, the sanction system is more likely to hinder the journey to employment. Jobseekers move into work quickest when they feel positive about work and thus sanctions should only be used as a last resort.”

ERSA say that additional changes that are needed include:

1  An ‘early warning’ system which could be used at first offence rather than imposing a sanction.

2  The development of a far more robust evidence base about the effectiveness of sanctions and benefits conditionality generally on jobseekers.

3  Frontline employment providers of the Work Programme and other programmes to be given more discretion about when they should report jobseekers to Jobcentre Plus for potential sanctioning.

4  Greater clarity across the system about which jobseekers classed as ‘vulnerable’ and should be exempt from sanctions altogether.

5  The better sharing of information about jobseeker circumstances, including the results of Work Capability Assessments, as lack of information can lead to inappropriate sanctioning.

6  An automatic review of jobseeker circumstances when repeat sanctions fail to have an effect.

Full review needed
A coalition of church groups have also condemned the very limited proposals to change the sanctions system.

The Baptist Union, Church in Wales, Church of Scotland, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and charity Church Action on Poverty have called for an immediate suspension of sanctions against families with children and people with mental ill-health.

They say the DWP’s response does not go far enough and have called again for a review.

A spokesperson argued:

“If a court is working to a bad set of laws for a bad set of reasons and making bad and unreliable decisions, it’s not the sentencing policy you look at. ‘Yellow cards’ will reduce the number of sanctions, which is welcome, but won’t address the fundamental problems that occur long before the decision to sanction has been made. That’s why we need a full independent review”

How much difference?
Any lessening of the harshness of the sanctions regime is welcome. But the current announcement looks much more like an attempt to blunt criticism whilst doing as little as possible.

As yet there are no details of when in 2016 the yellow card pilot will begin or how long it will last before a decision on whether to roll it out nationally is taken.

There is also real doubt over how much difference it will make to have the DWP look at their own decision again, especially when just 14 days are allowed for a claimant to collect and provide evidence.

As long as the DWP believes that threats, traps and cruel punishments are the best way to deal with claimants, tinkering with the system is no more than a PR stunt.


#7 Eli48 2015-11-09 13:58
Quoting Fedupwiththis00:
Hi could you tell me if I have claimed sea over a year ago, can I claim again? I cannot get income related so it's the other one, sorry have memory problems

You can claim again, but you wold have to go into the support group, as there is no time limiting of ESA Contributions based in the support group.
#6 Fedupwiththis00 2015-11-09 12:43
Hi could you tell me if I have claimed sea over a year ago, can I claim again? I cannot get income related so it's the other one, sorry have memory problems
#5 Graham Hill 2015-11-05 11:45
one by one the penguins steal
my sanity . I have spent 27 years
fighting the system . now the DWP
seen to have lost the plot . . .
who is responsible ? . someone
planned all this .

+1 #4 SWLABR 2015-11-04 12:42
It wouldn't be a bad idea were the DWP to trial the concept of the presumption of innocence, that one is innocent until proven guilty, and not remove life-support from society's most vulnerable on the basis of whim emanating from some anonymous backroom clerk in the employ of Duncan-Smith.
+4 #3 Elaine Burrows 2015-10-27 15:55
The sanctions system is more draconian than what applies in the workplace
- with or without a yellow card system..
If you are late for work,or fail to turn up for work without notifying your employer undoubtedly action would be taken. But it doesn't usually involve stopping your pay without even giving you chance to explain why.
The decent employers have systems in place whereby all attempts are made to resolve the problem informally via a confidential chat with your line manager. Only if the problem persists would the employer move to disciplinary action - and that usually involves 2 verbals and a written warning before dismissal.
Oh wait.....this is the same government that is introducing draconian new legislation against trade unions, that has introduced charges if you want to take an employer to a tribunal for unfair dismissal,that is threatening to slash tax credits for the low paid.
+2 #2 Eli48 2015-10-26 12:51
There should be no yellow card or, any other colour. People have paid for their benefits from their taxes and NI. It is not free money, and should get them for as long as they need them. The government denying people their legal benefits, is wrong.
+1 #1 shimtoan 2015-10-24 10:51
58% of sanctions are overturned on appeal, which surely means that at least 58% are wrongly handed out

Whilst a "yellow card" system is better than we have now, I agree that it isn't enough. A "three strike" system would be better, but again it'd be missing the fundamental point.

How is anybody supposed to be able to gather any evidence within 14 days when it takes the DWP 7 days to send a letter to you and the other 7 days you're supposed to be doing 35 hours of job seeking?

You need to be logged in to comment