Labour would scrap any targets for Jobcentre Plus staff to reduce or stop a certain number of benefit claims, the party has announced.
An increase in such “benefit sanctions” has been cited as one reason why more people are visiting food banks. Although the Government denies setting a national target to cut a proportion of handouts, leaked reports from individual Jobcentres suggest that some targets have been set locally.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “We have seen an exceptional rise in the proportion of people sanctioned – with one in four sanctions overturned on appeal. The Government has refused to provide any explanation of this increase - but numerous sources have reported that the increase is being driven by unofficial targets imposed on Jobcentres by the Department of Work and Pensions.
“That’s why we have pledged that there will be no targets for sanctions under a Labour government, so that Jobcentre staff are focused on helping people into work, not simply finding reasons to kick them off benefits. We will also ensure that rules and decisions around sanctions are fair and properly communicated, and that the system of hardship payments is working properly.”
The Trussell Trust has reported that 913,138 people were given three days' emergency food and support in 2013-14 – more than 10 times as many as in 2009-10. It found that about one in three food bank users were waiting for a decision on their benefits, and between 20 and 30 per cent had seen their benefits reduced or stopped because of a sanction.
The Public and Commercial Service Union has called for and end to “the target culture” for sanction referrals. It said that some 23 per cent of its members had an explicit target for referrals, while 81 per cent had an “expectation” level.Reuse content