Institute of Public Policy Research – The Severity of Benefits Sanctions

Postcode Lottery’ of benefit sanctions that hit one in 12 looking for work

  • Rate of universal credit claimants whose payments are cut or cancelled has doubled since pre-pandemic for those expected to do full-time work search 
  • ‘Postcode lottery’ means northern jobcentres impose disproportionately more sanctions, IPPR research finds 
  • Think tank urges government to pause all sanctions until inflation is brought under control 

The government should stop imposing punitive benefit cuts on people claiming universal credit until the cost-of-living crisis has eased, the IPPR think tank urges today. 

It says its research shows widespread variation in how job centres apply work-search rules, and even wider variation in how often different age groups face sanctions. IPPR says these need to be fully investigated and understood before new sanctions are rolled out. 

The report comes just days after Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, said he would expand the existing regime to include more stay-at-home parents, and apply rules more rigorously to people who do not meet strict requirements to search for work, as part of his spring Budget. 

Some 100,000 people have had their payments cut or cancelled because they are judged not to have made enough effort to find work, according to the most recent (DWP) data. This means an overall sanction rate for universal credit claimants in the full ‘searching for work’ group of 7.9 per cent, or one in 12 people — double the pre-pandemic rate. 

Concerningly, analysis by IPPR shows that jobcentres across the country appear to operate vastly different sanction regimes. For example, 12.8 per cent of universal credit claimants in Midlothian, Scotland are sanctioned, while the sanction rate is only 2.9 per cent for people in Broadland, Norfolk.

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