DWP now sanctions more people than ever before

A ripped brown sanctions envelope and the DWP logo

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed it is sanctioning more claimants than ever before. It comes as the so-called ‘cost of living crisis’ continues to worsen. And unless the DWP takes action now, the situation for countless people will become even graver – because being sanctioned means people have money deducted from their benefits.

DWP: sanctions on the up

On Tuesday 16 August, the DWP released new sanction figures. It said that it sanctioned 59,000 people in March 2022. The DWP noted that:

This is the highest number of adverse sanction decisions on UC [Universal Credit] full service across the whole timeseries, and 160% larger than it was at its previous pre-pandemic peak in July 2019 (23,000).

In the year May 2021 to April 2022, this meant the DWP sanctioned over 350,000 claimants. It also said that over 10% of these people were sanctioned more than once.

However, there are now far more Universal Credit claimants than there were before the pandemic. So, an increase in the number of people the DWP sanctions is to be expected. However, there’s another figure which shows that the department is now truly sanctioning more people than ever before.

Record-high sanctions

As the DWP revealed, the percentage of total Universal Credit “full service” claimants with a sanction has also hit a record high. It now stands at just under 6%:

DWP Universal Credit sanctions

Read on...

It noted that:

this is up by 2.04 percentage points from February 2022 and is up by 5.78 percentage points in the latest 12 months.

What the DWP didn’t say was that this is an increase of 136% since February 2022. Moreover, the Universal Credit sanction rate of just under 6% is huge compared to other benefits. This is also true at any point since the DWP started recording sanctions. It’s far higher than Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) sanctions:

DWP JSA Sanctions

And it’s far higher than Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) levels:

DWP ESA Sanctions

The DWP says…

The DWP has tried to explain the huge jump in sanctions away. It said:

At the beginning of the pandemic, conditionality was paused for Universal Credit claimants and face to face appointments were suspended… In July 2020, DWP reintroduced conditionality.

DWP gradually reintroduced face to face appointments for all claimants from April 2021. The volume of claimants subject to conditionality, and therefore subject to sanctions, increased. As the return to face to face appointments was a gradual process, and claimants were only subject to sanction when they failed to meet a mandatory requirement…

But it was also forced to admit that:

In May 2022, 33.3% of the UC [Universal Credit] caseload were in the conditionality regimes that could be subject to sanction, compared to 45.3% in February 2020, just prior to changes made to work requirements as a result of COVID-19. May 2022 has the lowest percentage of claimants in conditionality regimes subject to sanction when compared to the timeseries from the 11 months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is, fewer people are now subject to sanctions, but the DWP is still dishing them out at record levels.

DWP: time for claimants to take action

DWP social security rates are already appalling. As The Canary previously reported, the department is cutting – in real terms – at least £10bn off people’s money this year. This includes potentially stripping 400,000 people of their claims. Then, you have the department targeting over-50s who are not in work – with more potential sanctions on top of the current levels.

The DWP denied over two million people the cost of living payments. As the Mirror reported, this also included some people whom the department sanctioned. Plus, from 26 September, a new rule around earnings for working people means the DWP could sanction yet more claimants.

The cost of living crisis is hitting DWP claimants harder than many other people. However, it seems that the DWP is becoming more aggressive and punitive in its treatment of people on its watch. This appalling response to a crisis entirely created by the political and corporate class is nothing short of a disgrace. And while people kick-back against the energy price rises and workers strike and protest, maybe it’s time DWP claimants took action, too.

In the last decade chronically ill and disabled people led the way on protesting government austerity. Now, with so many non-disabled people caught-up in the social security system, an alliance of claimants could stand as a powerful force against the DWP – and corporate capitalism more broadly. Now is the time for this to happen.

Featured image via The Canary and Wikimedia 

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us