New 'independent' reviewer for benefit sanctions announced

Fri, 20/09/2013 - 11:29 -- nick

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced a new independent reviewer of benefit sanctions.

Matthew Oakley, the head of economics and social policy at thinktank Policy Exchange, will lead the review.

The post was required by the Jobseeker’s (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013, and will look at the clarity of information given to Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants on the consequences of failing to take part in mandatory back to work schemes, and on how to navigate the appeals system.

It is limited to examining the information provided, and will not deal with more serious allegations including that jobcentre staff are working to targets for sanctions.

Mark Hoban, the Minister for Employment, welcomed the appointment, saying:

"It is important that jobseekers know exactly what is expected of them when they apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance, and that they risk having their benefits sanctioned if they fail to play by the rules.

"This independent review will help us to ensure the way we communicate with claimants is as clear and straightforward as possible."

Policy Exchange has an existing agenda on benefits, suggesting the appointment is not as independent as it could be.

The last two reports produced by the thinktank show a clear anti-benefits standpoint.

In September it published findings on its 'Cultures of dependency' research, an often-used phrase by the government as it attempts to erode the value of, and access to, benefits.

The report recommended some radical ideas, including that jobseekers could be made to travel up to 90 minutes to sign on to encourage them to look further afield for work.

It did not say how this would be paid for, however, raising fears that unemployed people could be impoverished further.

In June the organisation published 'Capping welfare', calling for bigger cuts in benefits.

Oakley himself was appointed by the government in January to its Social Security Advisory Committee.

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