The numbers of Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) claimants who have been sanctioned up to the end of June 2013 has been revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

In their response, the DWP shows that:

  • 172,750 ESA claimants were referred for a potential sanction between October 2008 and June 2013 and of those referrals
  • 76,300 received an adverse decision, meaning their benefits were cut or stopped completely.{jcomments on}

When the DWP introduced the new “sanctions regime” in December 2012, Iain Duncan Smith denied that “targets” would be attached to the numbers of people the Jobcentre staff would be expected to refer for a sanction.

However, since that new regime was introduced:

  • 45,480 ESA claimants were threatened with a sanction between 3 December 2012 and 30 June 2013 and
  • 11,400 people had their benefits stopped or reduced.

To illustrate the impact further, the FOI response shows that 85% of ESA claimants who had their benefits sanctioned during that period had never been sanctioned previously.

The numbers, as well as being first time “offenders”, appear to be in direct contradiction of the alleged purpose of the sanction regime, which the DWP states is only ever used as a last resort, and then only when claimants repeatedly fail to “participate in work related activity”, which can also include failure to “participate in the Work Programme”.

Is it realistic that every one of those 11,400 sick people deliberately, and without good reason, failed to engage in the required work-related activity?

One Upper Tribunal Judge has taken a much broader view of the circumstances surrounding what “work-related activity” might look like for a claimant, in this recent decision.

Read the full Freedom of Information response here

Our thanks to Pre-Raphaelite Sister for spotting this for us


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