A National Audit Office (NAO) report is calling on the Government to urgently review their use of sanctions and how they affect people who currently need support from benefits.
At the moment, people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) and those in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have to do certain things in order to receive their financial support.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can ‘sanction’ people - punish them by cutting their benefits - if they aren’t willing or able to engage in certain ‘work-related’ activities.
Responding to the report, Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said:
“We welcome this report which confirms what people with mental health problems tell us. There is no evidence that sanctions help people with mental health problems move towards employment. In fact, they often make people’s mental health worse and make it harder for them to get back into work.
“The Government has claimed sanctions help motivate people to find work. Yet one particularly worrying finding of the report was that people claiming ESA who were sanctioned while on the Government’s flagship back-to-work support scheme, the Work Programme, were actually less likely to spend time in paid employment. It’s also concerning that decisions to cut someone’s disability benefit seem to vary so wildly from one Work Coach to another.
“Now is the time for a meaningful overhaul of the benefits and back-to-work system to one focused on support rather than sanctions, which are cruel, inappropriate and ineffective. We know that the right type of work at the right time can improve mental health, but it needs to be suited to someone’s individual skills and ambitions. People with mental health problems who aren’t currently working due to their health desperately need tailored, voluntary support to help them overcome the barriers they face in getting and staying in work, without constantly living in fear of having their money stopped if they aren’t able to engage.”
Read the NAO's press release and report on their website