The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has quietly scrapped a proposed scheme that would have made it easier for claimants to challenge sanctions. Its reasoning for shelving the plans is unsurprising: it basically said it would be too much hassle for the department to operate.
Stopping sanctions before they begin
The DWP has been trialling a so-called “yellow card” scheme for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants to challenge decisions which sanction their benefits. When it originally announced it in October 2015, the government had said the scheme was to give:
claimants facing a sanction an additional 14 days to provide evidence of compliance.
In other words, the DWP would warn a claimant it was going to sanction them, but give them two weeks to prove why it shouldn’t. Currently, no such ‘grace’ period exists.
The DWP: it’s not “effective”
But after the DWP trialled the scheme with 6,500 claimants [pdf, p3] in three areas of Scotland [pdf, p9], it has shelved the idea. Its reason [pdf, p20] for abandoning the idea of giving claimants a chance to challenge a sanction before it’s too late?
The qualitative evaluation concluded that given the additional burden placed on Departmental resources and the marginal gains achieved, the Trial did not appear to be an effective use of the Department’s resource.
Its scrapping of the scheme seems to fly in the face of its own evidence. The DWP’s evaluation of the trial found [pdf, p3] that 13% of people used the scheme. Of these, the DWP stopped the sanctions in around half of cases (6.5% of people). This means around 390 people were saved from being sanctioned incorrectly. But when applied nationally, the scheme could have saved tens of thousands from being sanctioned, if the DWP had started it in October 2015.
A national disgrace
The latest JSA sanctions figures for 2017 from the DWP show it sanctioned 60,109 people last year [xls, table 1_1, rows 228-239, column D]. So if the yellow card system had been applied, in theory just over 3,900 people may not have been sanctioned. If the DWP applied the yellow card system to universal credit, this figure could be over 13,800 people [xls, table 3_1, rows 29-40, column D].
In a statement to parliament, employment minister Alok Sharma said:
Given the low proportion of cases in which claimants provided further evidence and the even lower proportion of cases where decision outcomes were changed, we do not consider that the benefits of the approach are sufficient to justify the extra time and cost it adds to the process.
So to the DWP, preventing thousands of people being incorrectly sanctioned is not ‘an effective use of its resource’. Protecting people from hardship, mental distress, and poverty has never been high up the department’s list of priorities. Its scrapping of the yellow card scheme before it had even begun just proves this.
Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia
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