|IDS...thieving from the poor|
If you're thinking well, that's fair enough, they can't have been looking for work then I can only point you in the direction of the excellent report by Manchester Citizens Advice Bureau on people's real experience of being sanctioned.
If you don't have the time to read that report, then I'll appeal to your logic. The data shows that sanctions have increased by 137% compared with figures for between 2000-2010. Have claimants suddenly become so much worse? In the last two and a half years, the number of unemployed people sanctioned has averaged 64,307 a month, compared with 27,108 a month between 2000 and 2010.
N.B. And even the above may be a severe underestimate, due to sanctions decisions being deferred in 120,000 cases due to the 'Poundland case'.
In cash terms, the figures are even more stark: in 2009/10, £11 million of jobseeker's allowance (JSA) benefits were sanctioned, but in first six months of 2012/13 alone it was £60 million. This is because not only are more people being sanctioned, but more of their benefits are being removed - and for a longer period. The stats since October 2012 (when the new sanctions regime was introduced) show over 52,000 people have lost their benefits for 3 months or more.
This is about a far more brutal regime, not claimant behaviour. As the PCS union's Mark Serwotka said:
"The new sanctions regime damages the relationship between Jobcentre advisers and claimants, and is entirely counterproductive in helping people to find workOver 4,300 lone parents have been sanctioned every month under new sanctions regime - and 230 a month have received high level sanctions involving loss of benefits for 3 months or more. The effect of this on children will be appalling - and surely constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, by reducing to abject poverty the children of those who have (supposedly) breached the rules.
"The government’s perverse and punitive approach is a collective punishment on the unemployed and the disabled for its own failure to create sufficient jobs."
In nearly a third of cases (31%) under the new rules, the sanction was directly related to failure to participate in the Work Programme, mandatory work activity or some other scheme. Given international research and Work Programme figures show the abject uselessness of these schemes in assisting in securing paid work, this is being sanctioned for avoiding doing something counterproductive.
For disabled people on employment and support allowance, sanctions have increased by 156% in the last year. These sharp increases highlight how the use of sanctions has been cranked up as part of the coalition's drive to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor, while slashing corporation tax and the top rate of tax for the richest 1%.
The JSA data also shows non-white claimants are slightly more likely to get an adverse decision than white claimants. For all three categories of sanctions, non-white claimants got a higher proportion of adverse decisions: for low level, white claimants 56%, but for non-white 60%; for intermediate level white claimants 81% compared with 83% for non-white; and for high level sanctions (losing benefits for 3 months or more) white claimants referred for sanctions had adverse decisions 33% of the time, compared with 38% for non-white claimants. Although the differences are marginal, they are consistent across all three sanction levels.
Likewise for young people, while 16-17 year olds were sanctioned 64% of the time (after being referred for sanctions), for those over 55 it was 48%, and there was a direct correlation through the age brackets: the younger the claimant the more likely to be sanctioned. This is even worse given that young people inexplicably receive a lower rate of JSA (£56 per week compared with £71).
These data beg the question about whether the policy was subject to equality impact assessment - and if so whether this was predicted? (any insights welcome).