(2) what assessments her Department has made of the effectiveness of alternative sanctions regimes; and if she will publish the reports of those assessments;
(3) what changes she plans to make to the Jobcentre Plus sanctions regime;
(4) if she will publish each evaluation her Department has made of the effectiveness of the Jobcentre Plus sanctions regime.
Benefit sanctions are aimed at establishing a framework of rights and responsibilities with benefit customers, and encourage positive outcomes by obliging customers in receipt of working age benefits to engage with the support on offer and help them move into employment.
Benefit sanctions have been an integral part of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) since it was introduced and the detail is set out in the Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996.
Since April 2000 the sanction regulations for Incapacity Benefit customers have been set out in various Work Focused Interviews (WFI) regulations: The Social Security (Work-focused Interviews) Regulations 2000 No. 897; The Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2001 No. 3210; The Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2002 No. 1703; The Social Security (Incapacity Benefit Work-focused Interviews) Regulations 2003 No. 2439; and The Social Security (Incapacity Benefit Work-focused Interviews) Regulations 2008 No. 2928, Regulation 9.
The sanctions regime for Employment and Support Allowance customers is set out in The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 No. 794, Regulation 63.
The Income Support sanction regime was introduced through the Social Security (Work-focused Interviews for Lone Parents) and Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2000; The Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2001; and the Social Security (Jobcentre Plus) Regulations 2002 respectively. Copies of all of this legislation are available in the Library.
The Department continually reviews the effectiveness of conditionality and the associated sanctions regimes across all working age benefits and undertakes research on their effectiveness in supporting customers to move into employment. Published reports on the operation of sanctions are listed on the Department for Work and Pensions website at:
and are available in the House Library.
The 2008 White Paper ‘Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future’ (CM7506), set out the Government’s intention to test a model of escalating sanctions based on the principles set out in the 2008 independent review of conditionality ‘Realising Potential: A vision for personalised conditionality and support’ by Professor Paul Gregg. The model introduces five stages of sanctions, initially in Progression to Work pathfinder areas, which will allow for more attempts at contact and in depth case reviews with lone parents and partners of certain benefit recipients, and a number of stages before a financial sanction is considered.
Furthermore, the Welfare Reform Act 2009 introduced two new sanctions to the Jobseeker’s Allowance. The first is the power to sanction a customer who commits acts of violence or threatening behaviour against Jobcentre Plus staff during the course of a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance. The second is a sanction for Jobseeker’s Allowance customers who fail to attend their mandatory appointments as part of the requirements of receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, this change will be implemented from April 2010.
The Welfare Reform Act 2009 also introduced the power to sanction lone parents on Income Support and partners of certain benefit recipients, with younger children, for not undertaking agreed work related activity. The first stage of implementation for these measures will be in October 2010 in the Progression to Work pathfinder Jobcentre Plus districts.
As part of the ongoing review of support for Jobcentre Plus customers with disabilities and health conditions, we are reviewing the current sanctions regime for Employment and Support Allowance customers and we will publish details about any proposed changes in spring 2010.