Jobcentre sanctions - government delays publishing statistics

Mon, 20/05/2013 - 14:12 -- nick

The government was due to publish statistics on the number of sanctions handed out by jobcentres today, but has delayed the release.

UnemployedNet reported last week on the latest sanctions problems, which have seen accusations that jobcentre staff are being disciplined if they do not refer enough jobseekers for sanctions.

This process sees the majority of those referred having their benefits taken away for a period of time, creating poverty and hardship for those affected and their families and hampering the search for work.

The toughened regime introduced by the coalition in October has led to jobseekers deemed not to be doing enough to find employment, refusing to attend work schemes or breaking jobcentre rules being given longer sanctions periods.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) denied that the delay was due to political pressure, claiming the decision had been taken by statisticians who were concerned about the quality of the information.

However, last week's reports by UnemployedNet and The Guardian on the pressure to increase sanctions mean extra scrutiny will be applied to the decision, and to the figures themselves when released.

The Guardian has found 16 separate instances of target setting for sanctions at Jobcentres, and an internal DWP paper reported on last week confirms the existence of many of these.

It said "We have found a limited number of instances where a local manager has misinterpreted the instructions or has fallen back on target methodology in an effort to exercise their responsibilities to ensure the law is being properly applied."

The most recent UK job figures showed that the number of people in employment fell while the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose, leading to some commentators to ask where the claimants had gone to.

An increase in sanctions would explain this situation, even while those affected saw a big increase in their poverty.

David Webster, a senior research fellow at Glasgow University, speaking to The Guardian, said: "It is a matter of concern that these statistics have been delayed. JSA sanctions and disallowances were already rising markedly under the coalition, from about 3% of claimants per month, which they inherited, to over 4%, but the most recently published figures run only to October 2012.

"Since then there has been a big increase in the length of the most commonly occurring types of sanction, and the internal DWP 'score chart', published in the Guardian on 28 March, implied that there was a big further rise in the rate of sanctions per month in December and January, to over 7%.

"There is evidence that the increase in sanctions has led to the DWP failing to achieve its promised timescales for dealing with appeals.

"Administrative overload with increased sanctions may indeed be why there are problems with the statistics. Given the damage that it's known these sanctions can do, the public need to know as soon as possible what is happening."

UnemployedNet will report on the figures as soon as they are released.

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