A group of six universities has today produced the most extensive and damning report on the harmfulness and ineffectiveness of benefits sanctions. The report has a chapter on the damaging effects of the sanctions regime on sick and disabled claimants’ health and even details the experience of one disabled claimant who was sanctioned after turning up early for an interview.

The project, led by the university of York, carried out repeated interviews with over 300 claimants, including many disabled claimants.

Key findings include:

“Little evidence welfare conditionality enhanced people’s motivation to prepare for or enter paid work.

“Some people pushed into destitution, survival crime and ill health.

“Benefit sanctions routinely triggered profoundly negative personal, financial and health outcomes.

“The mandatory training and support is often too generic, of poor quality and largely ineffective in enabling people to enter and sustain paid work.”

WelCond Director Professor Peter Dwyer, from the University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, said:

“Our review reveals that in the majority of cases welfare conditionality doesn’t work as intended and we have evidence it has increased poverty and pushed some people into survival crime.

“What also became apparent was people were focusing on meeting the conditions of their benefit claim and that became their job – it is totally counter-productive.

“You are just making people do things to meet the conditions of the claim rather than getting them into work.”

“Successive governments have used welfare conditionality and the ‘carrot and stick ’ it implies to promote positive behaviour change.

“Our review has shown it is out of kilter, with the idea of sanctioning people to the fore. It is more stick, very little carrot and much of the support is ineffective.”

The report includes a detailed chapter on disabled people. The authors found that the sanctions regime makes many disabled people’s existing illnesses and impairments worse, adding that: “Its detrimental impact on those with mental health issues is a particular concern.”

The report also argued that the work capability assessment is intrusive and insensitively administered and “regularly leads to inappropriate outcomes”.

The report concluded that sanctions had no tangible positive effects and instead “routinely trigger profoundly negative personal, financial and health impacts that are likely to move disabled people further away from the paid labour market.”

The report quotes a number of claimants on their negative experience of sanctions and compulsory training.

One disabled woman explained how enforced training had made it harder for her to find work:

“By the time you’ve attended these courses you’re so demoralised and demotivated and kicked around so much that you lose the will to carry on.”

Another disabled claimant said that it was only moving into the support group and having the threat of sanctions lifted that allowed her to think about looking for work:

“I had instant relief when I knew I was having well over a year without being sanctioned, that immediately helped me start thinking, right, work.”

But undoubtedly the most distressing tale was that of a disabled JSA claimant who was sanctioned as a result of turning up early for an interview:

“Security guards wouldn’t let me upstairs because I was 15 minutes early. So, I went downstairs…[then] they let me go upstairs and nobody come and took my signing-on card. So, I was sat there for 20 minutes. Now, by the time somebody come and got my card, I was then 15 minutes late and the woman she said, ‘You’re late’, I said, ‘Well, no, I’m not, I was downstairs 15 minutes early, the guys wouldn’t let me up and when I come upstairs, nobody took my card.’ She said, ‘Well, I don’t believe you.’ I said, ‘Well, come and ask the security guards.’ She said, ‘No, I’m sanctioning you’.”

You can download the full report from this page.


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