Government Told to Urgently Reassess “Pointlessly Cruel” Benefit Sanctions Policy

November 6, 2018

The government has been urged by a parliamentary committee in Westminster to take an urgent look at the ways in which its benefit sanctions policies are impacting people’s lives across the country.

Members of the Work and Pensions Committee have published a report after investigating the issue and concluded that the current benefit sanctions system is not working and is in need of urgent reform.

Evidence that the government’s policies have the effect of encouraging people on benefits into work is described by the committee as being “at best mixed”.

The policies are described as appearing to be “arbitrarily punitive” in many cases and evidence suggests that benefit sanctions can often be counterproductive and seriously harmful to the people on the receiving end of them.

The committee noted in its report that certain individuals are particularly vulnerable to suffering the effects of benefit sanctions, including single parents, care leavers and anyone who has a disability or suffers from ill health.

Its conclusion was that the government hasn’t been able to demonstrate that its policies encourage people back into work and that until that link can be proven then vulnerable individuals should not have any more than 20 per cent of their benefit payments withheld from them at any given time.

MPs writing the report told the government that they want to see assessments carried out to determine what kind of impact benefit sanction policies have had on household finances and personal wellbeing across the UK since 2012.

“We have heard stories of terrible and unnecessary hardship from people who’ve been sanctioned,” commented Frank Field MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee.

“They were left bewildered and driven to despair at becoming, often with their children, the victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel.”

In recent weeks, the government has come in for widespread criticism in relation to Universal Credit, a long-standing policy which was designed to simplify and improve benefit payment mechanisms but which has left a lot of people in serious financial trouble as they are transitioned on to the new system.

Joanne Wright

Head Adviser at our Manchester Office

Tel: 0800 001 4247

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