DWP ministers withhold report on whether benefit sanctions really work

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Ministers have blocked the public from seeing a report on whether the sanctions are ‘effective’, just days after launching a new campaign that will stop more people from benefiting.

Therese Coffey, Secretary for Work and Pensions: her ministers have decided that the report should not be published
Therese Coffey, Secretary for Work and Pensions: her ministers have decided that the report should not be published

Conservative ministers have blocked the public from seeing a crucial report on whether profit sanctions work.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pledged in 2019 to investigate whether stopping People’s Universal Credit was “effective in helping applicants look for work”.

It came after charities and a committee of parliamentarians warned that the punishments could be “counterproductive”.

But nearly three years after the investigation was launched, ministers have now decided that it will not be released.

DWP Minister Baroness Stedman-Scott admitted: “We were unable to assess the deterrent effect.

“Therefore, this investigation does not present a complete picture of the sanctions.”

This week, the DWP refused a freedom of information request to release any part of the report. Officials claimed that publishing it would harm the “free and frank exchange of views” in government.

Despite the report, the DWP has now launched a new sanctions campaign.
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Although conceding that it could “provide further insight into the effectiveness of benefit sanctions”, they said it was important to consider the “deterrent” effect of sanctions, in other words, the fear of receiving a sanction rather than the sanction. per se.

Without this, the investigation is incomplete.

Dr David Webster, an academic at the University of Glasgow who made the request, now plans to appeal.

He told The Guardian: “It doesn’t look good when the DWP launches a new sanctions policy and doesn’t allow the public to see the evidence that could help them judge it.”

The DWP faced backlash this week for launching new sanctions against benefit claimants.

Under the new rules, people will lose their benefits just four weeks after filing a Universal Credit claim if they turn down any job, even if it’s not in their area of ​​expertise.

Ministers said it would help move 500,000 people to work by June.

But Joseph Rowntree Foundation director Katie Schmuecker said the policy “completely misses the point.”

Anastasia Berry from MS Society added: “Taking a forceful approach will not help everyone, especially people with disabilities, to get into and stay in high-quality, appropriate work.

“Instead, it risks creating large amounts of anxiety and stress, and could force people into unsuitable, poorly paid and insecure jobs.”

The DWP promised the report after MPs said in 2018: “At best, the evidence on the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed, and at worst shows they are counterproductive.”

The National Audit Office also said earlier that the DWP was not following the effects of the sanctions closely enough.

The DWP promised to analyze the effect of the sanctions on “the probability that a person will go to work and on their income once they are working.”

A final report was promised in late spring 2019. In June 2020, officials said it was “a little late” but work was still underway.

A DWP spokesperson said: “With a record number of jobs available, it is right that people who can work are being encouraged to take up available positions.

“Our new approach will help claimants get back to work quickly, while ensuring businesses get the people they and the economy need.

“We know that work is the best way for people to prosper, improve their lives and provide for their families because, as well as being good for mental wellbeing, people make at least £6,000 better off working full time than on benefits. .

“As part of our new campaign, job seekers will receive better personalized job entry support from our job coaches and through job centers that partner with employers to match talent with openings.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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