TO hear there is a dramatic rise – by more than four times – in the number of people having their benefits sanctioned by the Jobcentre is hardly surprising considering the pressure the UK Government is placing on jobseekers.
This of course not only extends to unemployed people but those living on disability or incapacity benefits too.
In releasing the figures on the dramatic increase in sanctions, CAS has exposed something that has been going on for years.
Sanctions imposed by Jobcentres have always been criticised for being harsh and draconian, singling out individuals for punishment because they may have missed signing times, a job interview or have not supplied enough evidence they are actively seeking work.
As CAS points out often the sanctions are imposed by whimsical or over zealous employees who are poorly trained or don’t understand the rules themselves and, if in doubt, just impose a sanction.
However, on the receiving end, as the CAS report shows, are some who have been penalised because of their poor grasp of English, unable to attend appointments because of health issues or those with learning difficulties who find the process hard to adhere to.
The punishment can be no benefits for up to six months with no right to apply for crisis loans and housing benefit stopped to boot.
The government’s retort that the practice was a misunderstanding is a limp excuse given the prevalence of sanctions.
The Department of Work and Pensions should review the way Jobcentre Plus offices use sanctions and put in place safeguards to ensure they are a last resort for people genuinely abusing the system.