When the new, stricter regime of 'conditionality' and sanctions was introduced from October 2012 the number of sanctions being imposed increased dramatically. In his Independent Review of JSA Sanctions, published in July 2014, Matthew Oakley (Head of Economic Analysis at 'Which?') made 17 recommendations for improvement. Some changes have been implemented: automated sanction notification letters; improved hardship interviews for vulnerable claimants; additional vulnerability guidance for work coaches and a trial of a 14 day sanction warning period from April 2016 in Scotland, whereby claimants have the opportunity to provide good reason for their action/inaction before a sanction is imposed. However, there are still many problems with sanctions: in November 2016 the National Audit Office called for DWP to conduct a wide-ranging review .The NAO points out inconsistencies - "...some Work Programme providers referring twice as many people for sanctions as other providers in the same area"; and inefficiencies /waste of public resources - the DWP estimates it spends £30-50 million a year applying sanctions, plus £200 million monitoring the conditions it sets for claimants;the NAO estimates £132 million in sanctions reductions but paid hardship payments of £35 million. report here.
And the fact that a very high % of claimants win their challenges demonstrates a poor quality of decision making. Unfortunately very few claimants challenge their sanction decisions, but they should do - up to 75% of challenges are successful!
By clicking on the icons below you will find lots more information about sanctions, what JSA claimants are expected to do, how to prevent sanctions, how to claim hardship payments and how to challenge sanction decisions.