The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have issued a report condemning “unexplained variations in the use of benefit sanctions” by different jobcentres and different work programme providers.
The PAC’s report, released today, reveals that some work programme providers refer twice as many claimants for sanctions as other providers operating in the same area.
The PAC also argues that the DWP do not collect enough information to allow them to understand in what circumstances sanctions are effective or to calculate the total cost to the public purse of the sanctions regime. In some cases claimants who are sanctioned may end up homeless or hospitalised or reliant on other services that are paid for by the taxpayer.
In addition, the PAC expresses concern that vulnerable claimants who should not be subject to sanctions are having their benefits cut in any case.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said:
"Benefit sanctions have been used as a blunt instrument by Government.
“It is an article of faith for the Department for Work & Pensions that sanctions encourage people into work. The reality is far more complex and the potential consequences severe.
“Sanctions and exemptions are being applied inconsistently, with little understanding of why.
Some people who receive sanctions stop claiming without finding work, adding to pressures on other services.
“Suspending people’s benefit payments can lead them into debt, rent arrears and homelessness, which can undermine their efforts to find work.
“A third of people surveyed by the charity Crisis who were claiming Housing Benefit had this stopped in error because of a sanction – an appalling situation to be faced with.
“All of this highlights the need for a far more nuanced approach to sanctioning claimants, with meaningful measures in place to monitor its effectiveness.
“As a priority the Government must make better use of data and evidence from the frontline to improve its understanding of what best supports both claimants and the interests of taxpayers in general."