April 2015 - snapshot review of the roll-out of sanctions easement across England.
Sanctions revisited - 2015
In 2013, our ground-breaking research A High Cost to Pay showed that someone who becomes homeless was ten times more likely to be sanctioned than the general population.
We also demonstrated that certain groups of vulnerable people were particularly likely to be effected.
But in spite of the findings, we had to accept that conditionality around benefits is here to stay. It dates back many years and in this era of almost unprecedented austerity the likelihood is that it will tighten rather than loosen.
However, if the genuine purpose of sanctions is to be a tool for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure people focus on finding work, it must be recognised that a one size fits all approach cannot work, especially for those with other support needs.
To be fair, when we reported our 2013 findings to DWP there did seem to be genuine concern that the conditionality regime was not working in the way it should.
To this end, over the last year we have worked in partnership with DWP nationally, and with district Jobcentre Plus offices, local authorities and front-line homelessness agencies to address the issue of inappropriate sanctions. A lot of work has been put in on all-sides, with invaluable assistance being offered by users of homelessness services sharing their personal stories of what has helped and impeded them in their search for work.
Is the situation improving?
We've published a brief snapshot review to look at whether our efforts, with our partners, have done anything to alleviate the problems previously identified.
Unsurprisingly it is a mixed picture, but the headlines are:
- Sanctions remain a big problem. Agencies report more of them for a longer period.
- However, changes we recommended, which have been introduced recently, have made a material improvement.
- The picture is a patchy one, with local and regional differences in impact.
With the General Election only a fortnight away, the real challenge will be to get the new Government to take a fresh look at how sanctions work.
Whoever takes the reins, we need to communicate the need for joined-up policy around education, training and employment, which utilises the skills in the sector, and looks at what actually works in helping those furthest from the labour market to reach their employment potential.
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Paul is our policy manager with particular responsibility for a number of areas including welfare and migration. Paul is currently on sabbatical leave.
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