THE UK Government is under fire for giving ‘no warning’ benefit sanctions to tens of thousands of claimants over the past five years, according to a leading academic.
In nearly 300,000 cases, claimants have been hit with sanctions without being officially notified.
Campaigners warn that claimants are being left without any money and plunged into “crisis”.
The figure has been calculated based on data released by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) by one of the UK’s leading sanctions experts, Dr David Webster, an honorary senior research fellow in urban studies at Glasgow University.
The DWP’s analysis found that in 2014, there were 47,239 sanction decisions – a total of 6.9% of all cases – where claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) had not been notified in writing.
The letters – which outline the sanction decision and the right to ask for a review and lodge an appeal – had not been sent out due to an administration error.
Webster has calculated that applying this percentage over the past five years shows there were around 279,000 cases where claimants had their benefit stopped without being officially notified.
One case in a recent report from Citizens Advice Scotland highlighted how a man was sanctioned twice for failing to carry out enough job searches. He was initially only told he “might” be sanctioned and did not receive a letter explaining the reasons for the sanction. Without the letter it was impossible for him to request a review of the decision be carried out.
Another example reported by the Midlothian Financial Inclusion Network involved a woman who had been sanctioned for failing to attend a benefits-related medical appointment, even though she had not been notified of it. She only realised she had been sanctioned when her money was stopped and had to turn to the local foodbank for support.
The DWP has admitted the letters should have been sent out and is now writing to all those who did not receive the notification. However the correspondence will not include an apology for the error.