The effect of benefit sanctions

The effect of benefit sanctions

An examination of the new benefit sanctions which came into force in the UK yesterday, 21 October, and the effect they will have on the most vulnerable in society. Reproducing this article is not an endorsement of all of the views of the author.

From yesterday new sanctions on benefits are being rolled out by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), whereby people who don’t comply with the terms of their receipt of benefits can have their benefits docked for up to three years. The reasons for such sanctions being handed out include not applying for the jobs suggested by JobCentre staff, turning down offers of work - even if work is entirely inappropriate, refusing to do unpaid work - regardless of the conditions of that work, and missing appointments. It’s worth remembering that the JobCentre have targets to move people off benefits, and in the current situation in which there really aren’t enough jobs, that people are being moved off benefits by sanction and not by getting employed. It is also worth remembering that more people applying for jobs does not make more jobs appear.

Anyhow, I was mainly interested in trying to discover how benefits sanctions actually affect people - given that benefits are set at pretty much the minimum level to keep you alive, the prospect of living for three years without that, I imagine, would likely result in a) destitution, and b) death. I’m really interested in whether the government has impact-assessed or risk-assessed this change of policy. Unsurprisingly there is little in the way of research on people undergoing benefits sanctions, but having gone through the docs on the DWP site, I found a couple of useful reports. I’m just going to paste a couple of block quotes here in order that you can get a flavour of what these sanctions actually mean. The first is from a report on the effects of benefit sanctions on offenders from 2003 (

“One group appeared to have experienced little financial hardship. For these offenders, the sanction meant they had not had the money for things like buying clothes for themselves or toys for their children, renting videos, and going out. They reported having to buy cheaper food and cutting back on discretionary spending during the sanction period. ‘I just went without cigarettes, went without like going out for drinks and just cut back really.’ (Male, 23, CPRO, Sanctioned, IS 40%)

Others experienced more severe financial impacts, with problems paying for food, heating and electricity. These impacts were described by people experiencing an Income Support reduction as well as the 100% Jobseeker’s Allowance sanction. They described buying less or cheaper food or missing meals, and occasionally reported going without food for periods of time. Offenders reported that they had also cut back on or gone without heating or lighting for periods. ‘Without that money they were taking off me, I couldn’t run my fire, I was going without gas and electric.’ (Female, 19, CRO, Sanctioned, IS 40%)

There were also reports of living circumstances becoming more unstable because of the sanction. Offenders who lived with their parents said they had been threatened with being thrown out, or told to leave, because they were unable to contribute to their board during the sanction. Offenders living in rented accommodation also described being unable to pay rent due, above Housing Benefit. There were reports of being threatened with eviction (none had actually been evicted), and falling into arrears.

Offenders had also been unable to pay outstanding fines from previous offences, or fines imposed for the breach for which they had been sanctioned, and some received a summons to court or were threatened with repossession. There were other outstanding loans on which people had not been able to make repayments, such as Crisis Loans, informal loans from family or friends, and a debt owed to drug dealers.

A consequence for many offenders was an accumulation of debt which added to financial difficulties after the end of the sanction period”

A second report, from 2008, on the effects of benefit sanctions on the behaviour of lone parents,, (a study that sounds like it was cooked up by Dr Milgram) offers the following in its summary:

“The findings in this study, based on the data gathered from both the lone parents and the Jobcentre Plus staff, suggest that imposing a sanction had only a negligible effect on customers’ labour market decisions. The questions posed in pursuit of the research aims drew very little data that could illustrate that sanctions promote job-seeking behaviour, although a very small number of customers said that the risk of, or the implementation of, a sanction ‘may’ have made a difference”

“The financial coping strategies of the lone parents who found their benefit payments reduced usually involved reducing spending. The spending that was reported to be affected often related to the purchase of basic provisions, such as food, phone, electricity, gas, nappies, taking their child to playgroup, paying other bills, Christmas club payment.”

Further, this study showed that “These lone parents, in comparison to the wider sample in this study, demonstrated higher levels of ill health, both of themselves and of their children.”

The increase in benefits sanctions has been designed by the government to save an extra £10bn. What is clear from these reports is that this money will be saved at the expense of the lives of those who are poorest and most in need. These sanctions will not create jobs, nor will they help people get jobs, but they will prevent both adults and children from having access to the very basic necessities: food, warmth, and shelter.



Oct 22 2012 12:31

Absolutely fucking horrible. As a nice cherry on top the high numbers of sanctions can/will be used as 'proof' that the unemployed are lazy fucks and not trying hard enough. That's what happening over here and it makes me fucking sick.

Oct 22 2012 13:29

The whole ATOS fiasco goes to prove that using private companies do not serve the public in any way ,but are put in place to do their pay masters bidding ie the Government .Large companies are allowed to use tax loop holes because they are also large employers ,it is fair to conclude then that its business that’s dictates the policy of public management with little input from Government ,except to ignore the sharp practices they use .Governments serve no beneficial purpose for a cohesive and stable social platform ,why vote for any party.Under the Geneva Convention 1949 nobody should suffer for a mismanaged economy not of their making,but that is exactly what is happening here and now .Draconian Welfare reforms are being put in place because of the state of the economy so we are told, either the Government are lying they are not for that purpose ,because of the convention or lying to hide the fact they are carrying out a programme of social cleansing .Whichever we the public are lied to which ever stance any Government wish to take .
admin: Spam link removed

Oct 22 2012 14:39

Sorry to state the obvious, but it's going to be a fucking shit Christmas and New Years for a lot of people.

Oct 22 2012 14:34

What made me laugh is in the event your benefits could be gone for three years, you're still expected to turn up to the job centre every week or so, to keep hold of the 'entitlement'. What would be the fucking point of that?

Oct 22 2012 14:50

realistically how can people aford to travel to jobcentres if they have no money????

jef costello
Oct 22 2012 15:47

This government seems determined to bring us back to the 1930s. Terrible news.

Oct 22 2012 16:01

The two studies are from 2003 and 2008 - I imagine things will be worse now, for example credit will be less available.

jef costello wrote:
This government seems determined to bring us back to the 1930s. Terrible news.

The difference is that society is much more atomised now, and I think we are much less able to rely on family.

Oct 24 2012 05:39

I remember being sanctioned for walking out of a job becausr my employer at the time wasn't a very good one. It was winter.snow was thick on the ground. I couldn't afford to eat.I had no heating. I was frozen and became ill. I actually thought I was going to die I was so cold and hungry. Yet the law states what people need to live on. My situation at the time was inhumane and its a disgrace how people are treated. If I was a pet owner and starved or neglected my get done for it.

Nov 4 2012 15:33

Two of my daughters receive benefits and both have problems with the petite bureaucrats of the state.
What is it with these people, treating working class as if they are shit especially if they come from a tough working class estate.
The youngest has had her dole stopped for two weeks for not turning up to a pointless job search session the day after she had been to the very same place to sign on. Explaining that she could not attend the session through the lack of money for the bus fare. She was asked why did she not walk to the job centre. Well its a round trip of seven miles, that’s why. Such caring people. Every week she is expected to go to the job centre at least once a week usually twice at £5.00 ago.
I can see the glass screens making a come back.

michael Boxall
Nov 22 2012 10:52

How is it Legal for this Government to authorise sanctions that take the safety net of the poorest and most vunerable people in society including Women & Children.! Meanwhile this Government allows huge Corporations to get away with not paying taxes, Gives Tax breaks to the rich and does absolutely nothing to help British born citizens get Jobs which European members are taking.! When a member from the EU or an internatinal; terrorist has more human rights than a British citizen who is born here worked and paid taxes It begs the question does this Government actually care about the very people who they are supposed to be representing.! I am a Victim of this ' Sink or Swim ' culture and it feels as thoe Mr Camerons boot is on the top of my head.! It would be more Humane to hand out syanoid pills this Christmas!,It would be a quicker way to go than Starving to Death.! If this is allowed to happen it is the similar sort of Evil that has allowed Jimmy Saville to commit the attrocities that he has done to the most vunerable Children over decades under a cloak of Good will.

Dec 2 2012 21:55

totally agree with michael boxall,how can it be legal to treat english born and bred benefit claimants differently to people from other countries who the gov have been told they MUST give benefits to even if they dont intend to work. Is the human rights law only for immigrants and people from eu countries ,its easy to see how the gov. is making people rascist even people like myself who never was before. The gov. love to divide and rule, they are taking us back to the thirties and i expect the next thing they have lined up will be to bring back the workhouse for people who cant get jobs! The injustice of this gov. sickens me and it seems no one in power is willing to stand up for all the wrongdoing of this hateful government !!!

Dec 3 2012 01:22

@ nannyjules, you complain that a government stuffed with white millionaires loves to divide and rule workers such as yourself and yet you say you are racist. Does that not seem illogical? As if you're falling for their con?

I'm unemployed again now, but the last job I had was through a temp agency as a minumum wage warehouse operative. The vast majority of my workmates were immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Mediterrenean because there are no jobs there and the wages are crap (what would you have done if you were in their shoes? be honest now wink ); we laughed together, skived off together and talked shit about our superiors together. The only people to give me beef and eventually screw me over were my Stakhanivite line manager and the person at my agency, both of whom were Britsh citizens born and bred, who spoke the same language and came from the same region as me. The English person at the agency didn't tell me anything about the job, didn't give me a timesheet, reduced me to being a day labourer not knowing whether I had work the next day and when I asked for my wages she went on to accuse me of lying about the number of days I had worked and mocked me for taking a day off due to a migrane.

I'm not saying we should side with all immigrants by the way, because they can be equally exploitative, just those that work or claim benefits alongside us.

Do you actually know any immigrants? Do you have any statistics to back up your claim that all/ most of them don't want to work? Or did you get that from a tabloid newspaper which constantly attacks us unemployed? I've stopped reading that crap purely for my own mental wellbeing...

If you don't recognise that your interests and those of immigrant claimants (regardless of what colour they are or which country they're from) are the same and then fight together for BOTH OF YOUR BENEFITS, then the government will end up sanctioning both of you.

@ michael Boxall

Don't pick out women and say they're just as vulnerable as children - it's ridiculously sexist.

Why are benefit sanctions legal? The same reason it is legal for states to send legions of workers to maime and slaughter one another - so the boss class can get richer.

Dec 3 2012 02:11

Coicidentally, more people have died as a result of the government cuts to welfare re disability than British soldiers have died in Afghan.

Dec 3 2012 09:53

Agree entirely with wojtek, above.

michael Boxall wrote:
How is it Legal for this Government to authorise sanctions that take the safety net of the poorest and most vunerable people in society including Women & Children.!

this is because the law is controlled by the rich!

Meanwhile this Government allows huge Corporations to get away with not paying taxes, Gives Tax breaks to the rich and does absolutely nothing to help British born citizens get Jobs which European members are taking.! When a member from the EU or an internatinal; terrorist has more human rights than a British citizen who is born here worked and paid taxes

now, the first bit you right here is correct, however the second and third bits are stupid. Sure, some Europeans have jobs in the UK - but similarly millions of British people have jobs abroad. Who wants to live behind an Iron Curtain? As for saying that terrorists have more human rights than British citizens, this is just a ridiculous statement which sounds like something you are quoting from the Daily Mail, and which has no basis in fact. If you think it does, then please show some evidence of your assertion. Thanks

Dec 3 2012 22:00

Thanks for this article, Steven.
I can't believe what I'm seeing in my ESOL classes. People are indeed getting their benefits stopped and having to go without food. Insane requirements for jobsearch and constant threats. Every single person found fit to work despite severe illness and lack of mobility. People doing jobs they were once paid for now only for their benefits.
I'm so glad there's campaigning against workfare and all the rest, it's brilliant and is obviously having some effect. Unfortunately a lot of the people I see don't have access to the type of information which could help them avoid the worst of it all. There a lot of people in this country just trying to survive now.

Dec 4 2012 03:27
michael Boxall wrote:
Gives Tax breaks to the rich and does absolutely nothing to help British born citizens get Jobs which European members are taking.! When a member from the EU or an internatinal; terrorist has more human rights than a British citizen who is born here worked and paid taxes It begs the question does this Government actually care about the very people who they are supposed to be representing.!

I get most of what you're saying, but I don't think migrants from the EU are anything like as well off as you seem to be saying here. A few of my friends have EU citizenship and they get the same shitty treatment from the government, the JobCentre, the bosses etc. that I get as a UK national. In fact some of them have it a lot worse, e.g. a mate of mine from Eastern Europe who works at a software company and would have no safety net at all if they lost their job. They can't claim JSA so they'd be totally fucked, with no money to live on whatsoever.


Dec 22 2012 16:35

Between 1st April 2007 and 31st March 2012, 1,483,760 or 19% of JSA claimants had their benefit sanctioned.

My view
Jan 23 2013 19:12

Will try to be as brief as I can or I will be here all night. I fail to see how imposing sanctions on people already struggling will benefit anyone. The only thing sanctions will do is lead to crime prostitution and suicides.

Let's just say a lone parent does not meet her job seeking agreements, Is that the fault of the child. Therefore, should her child be put into poverty and be made to suffer from malnutrition.

3 year sanctions come on Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg, Mr Osbourne and Mr Duncan Smith and anyone who I have forget to mention "dirty scumbag disgusting rapists are not punished for much longer that that". xx

Feb 13 2013 14:49

I am claiming Jobseekers as a lone parent, Yesterday I missed a job search appointment, not a signing appointment.
I totally forgot as my appointments are usually thursday and this was booked for a tuesday.
I called first thing this morning when realising this and went for an interview today.
I now have to wait for 4-6 weeks whilst they decide whether or not I'll be sanctioned for 4 weeks.
If so I will become £440 in debt with my landlord ( luckily I am a council tenant of this would be A LOT higher )
£60 in debt to council tax and wont recieve Jobseekers allowance of £240.
I get if I did this kind of thing regularly but this is the only time this has happened, I am studying and trying to become a bookkeeper, applying for well over the 8 ( every two weeks )jobs I have been told is all I have to apply for, and I'm now facing these possible sanctions.
Is it too much to expect just a smidge of understanding and descency ?

My view
Feb 14 2013 21:29

Hi Jeckle.
No of course it is not too much to ask for a smidge of understanding and decency?. They enjoy the fact that they have our lives in their hands. Have you noticed as well when they make a mistake it is called human error. However turn things around and we make a mistake we are dragged over the coals.
O.K so you missed an appointment which is hardly crime of the century, but is that the fault of your child.? No. so why should he/she be made to suffer which is what could happen should the sanction go a head.
Hopefully the sanction wont happen will keep my fingers crossed for you, but if it does go to your local P.M. (after all they do have a vested interested in helping their constituents, and they are elected to represent people) and local paper and tell them a child is being made to suffer because of their mums honest mistake.
I have great faith that what goes around comes around and karma will be after these people who think they have the right to treat us like puppets on strings, and play games with our lives, and one day sooner or later, she'll get them. xx

Mar 7 2013 18:14

after phoning the wp to explain in advance why i couldnt go for my appointment, i was assured it was fine and go the next day. which i did. then just before christmas i was sanctioned for 1 month because of it. it was the most degrading month of my life. i am 54 and have worked since i was 16 up until 2 yrs ago. i recieved a letter yesturday from jc asking why i had missed another appointment at wp and threats of another sanction. i had not been told about an appointment so how could i attend ? i was waiting for a 3pm call from the wp for a telephone appointment, which came at 3.20. ( another little trick they are using ) i had my looking for work chat. then i asked him about this so called appointment and how had they made it ? he started looking on his comp and clearing his throat, turns out it was his mistake and could i meet with him tommorrow to go over my reply to jc. covering his own arse no doubt. even now im terrified incase i get sanctioned again. i was suicidal at the month one, how could i possably go for a longer sanction. i was cold and hungry and felt so low. how can they do this to people. what was i paying my taxes for ?

My view
Mar 13 2013 19:20

Disgusting treatment. Working 38 years (if I've got my mathes right) it isn't benefits that you claim it is insurance! your money. I hope they had a happy Christmas!. The trouble is they seem more interested in sanctioning people rather than getting people into work. Karma will get them one day though, I can promise you that.. How do they sleep with the knowledge that they are putting people into poverty

In regards to you being understandably, terrified of benefit sanctions. I would personally phone then up or call in each week and ask do I have any impending appointments, when you sign in the visitors book give your reason for visit "To check impending appointments". They re emburse your travel. You can also use the computers as well while you're there, to apply for jobs.

It's a bad day when we have a government and society that seem to care more about the rights and safety of Murderers, phedophiles and rapists than they do about job seekers. xx

Mar 18 2013 01:16

The TUC (Tory Unofficial Cops) support benefit sanctions.

Because they are real jobs, the same benefit rules that apply to other jobs should also apply; claimants who turn down a job guarantee job without good cause should face benefit sanctions.

Why the TUC is wrong on benefit sanctions…..

'Labour supporter' Tim Page wrote it. He has a twitter account. Feel free to troll him.

Sep 23 2013 16:37
Nov 1 2013 18:40