The DWP has broken, or kicked into the long grass, a series of promises it made to the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC). One of these was a promise to trial issuing a warning before a first sanction which has apparently become a victim of Brexit.
Last year the DWP made five promises to the PAC about improvements to sanctions. So far it has kept none of them.
The DWP agreed that it would “undertake a trial of warnings (rather than sanctions) for first sanctionable offences, as recommended by the independent Oakley Review and the Work and Pensions Select Committee.”
However, the DWP has now said it will not be doing this because:
“Competing priorities in the Parliamentary timetable mean that the legislative change that would be necessary to introduce a trial of this type cannot be secured within reasonable timescales.”
In other words the DWP are claiming that because of Brexit there is no space for legislation to allow for issuing warnings instead of sanctions.
In reality, there would be absolutely nothing to stop the DWP issuing a warning rather than a sanction in the first instance if they chose. New legislation would not be needed, just less harsh implementation of the sanctions regime.
More broken promises
The DWP has failed to meet other undertakings it gave to the committee.
The DWP agreed to work with other government departments to estimate the impacts of sanctions
on claimants and their wider costs to government. The DWP have now said they will not do this because they have discovered they “do not have the capacity to undertake this activity.”
The DWP said they would look into why sanctions were imposed inconsistently by different jobcentres and providers and report back by the end of 2017. The DWP now says it will not finish its research until March 2018 and has not given a date when it will be ready to publish it. Past experience suggests that the research may not be published until so long has passed that the DWP can argue that its conclusions are now out of date and cannot be relied upon.
The DWP said it would look into how it could ensure that housing benefit is not stopped in error due to sanctions. The DWP now claims that it found no evidence that HB is ever stopped in error because of sanctions. Instead, they laid the blame on claimants who they say fail to return forms when their HB is suspended as a result of a sanction. As a result it will be taking no further action.
Further details of the DWP’s broken promises can be found in the Treasury Minutes Progress Report