Jobcentre staff are sanctioning benefits claimants inappropriately for minor infringements when they should use discretion, a cross-party group of MPs has found

 

An “unprecedented” number of those dependent on welfare were punished in the year to June 2013, according to a report into Jobcentre Plus published today by the Work and Pensions Committee.

This amounted to five per cent of all Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants getting sanctioned every month and the group said many of these punishments were disproportionate.

“Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied”, the MPs said.

The group is calling for a major independent review of sanctioning, beyond the narrow review already being conducted by Government, to “ensure that the rules are being applied fairly and appropriately”.

Dame Anne Begg MP, chair of the committee, said: “If people are being sanctioned for petty things you might end up driving them away from the labour market. If you’ve no money coming in, you become dependent on foodbanks and there’s a cycle of decline that makes you less likely to enter the labour market.”

Homeless charity Centrepoint welcomed the report, saying a third of the young people it supports on JSA have been sanctioned in the last six months.

A DWP spokeswoman said: "The report recognises that Jobcentre Plus responds well to changes and is cost effective. Every day Jobcentre advisers are successfully helping people realise their aspiration to move off benefits and into work so they can secure their future.”

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