COMMONS

Committee welcomes Government shift in sanctions policy

22 October 2015

The Government outlines a series of policy changes in its response to the House of Commons Work and Pension's Committee report on benefit sanctions.

Government to test new sanctions warning system

Prompted by the Committee’s recommendation of the introduction of yellow cards, the Government will trial a sanctions warning system which will give claimants a 14-day window to provide evidence of why a sanction should not be imposed.

The Committee welcomes the Government’s response and notes the Government has also:

  • issued new guidance to Jobcentre Plus staff to improve awareness of vulnerability and how conditionality can be varied
  • accepted in principle the need to make hardship payments available from day one of a sanction; to remove the necessity of a separate application process for a hardship payments for vulnerable claimants and those with dependent children; and to extend the definition of groups considered "at risk" for hardship purposes to include those with mental health conditions and those that are homeless

Chair's comment

Frank Field, Chair of the Committee, said:

"Our predecessor Committee conducted some very valuable work on the benefit sanctions regime. We are pleased that the Government has accepted many of the Committee's criticisms of its approach and, more importantly, the recommendations for change. In particular, we welcome the trial of the "yellow card" warning system and the reassessment of what constitutes hardship.

Conditionality is an important part of our benefit system, but sanctions must be fair, clearly understood and not plunge families into unjustifiable hardship.

The Government's response leaves a number of questions unanswered. We will be tracking the progress closely to ensure that the Government follows through on the spirit of this constructive response in practice.

I will be writing to the Secretary of State asking for further information on the detail and timing of his plans. We will also ask him about them when he gives evidence to the Committee on Wednesday morning."

The response is published alongside a letter from the Secretary of State to the Chair (PDF PDF 66 KB).

Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, will give oral evidence to the Committee on the Department's 2014-15 Annual Report and Accounts at 9.30 am on Wednesday 28 October in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

Further information

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