Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley review

Inquiry status: concluded

Benefit sanctions involve the suspension of benefit payments for a set period, where claimants fail to meet certain conditions, such as attendance at Jobcentre appointments or participation in mandatory work schemes. The sanctions regimes for both Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were strengthened by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (external site).

Matthew Oakley conducted an independent review of JSA sanctions in relation to mandatory back to work schemes (i.e. principally sanctions affecting JSA claimants participating in the Work Programme). The Oakley Review (PDF 566KB) was limited; this inquiry is broader. It considers ESA sanctions, including whether the current ESA regime is appropriate and proportionate for jobseekers with ill health and disabilities. It also considers whether the JSA and ESA regimes are achieving their policy intentions; the wider impacts on claimants; and possible alternatives.

Submissions should address the terms of reference issued by the Committee.



  • Close


    • Reports and associated evidence – Reports of Committee inquires. This category may also include Special Reports where they are used by a Committee to bring matters relating to conduct of its business to the notice of the House.
    • Responses to Reports - Responses may be published as a Special Report, or as a Command Paper. They may also be appended to a Report should the Committee have substantial comments on the Response, in which case they can be found listed under Reports. 
    • Other oral and written evidence - Evidence taken by the Committee that has yet to or did not result in the publication of a Report. This includes transcripts of recent meetings.
    • Estimate Memoranda - An Estimate memorandum is an explanatory note that accompanies a government department’s estimate (a means by which a department seeks authority from Parliament for its spending plans).
    • Correspondence - Correspondence sent from or received by the Committee or its Chair.
  • 04 Feb 2015 - Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF379 KB) HC 814 | Published 10 Mar 2015

    Evidence given by Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Minister of State for Employment, and Chris Hayes, Labour Market Strategy Director, Department for Work and Pensions

  • 21 Jan 2015 - Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF397 KB) HC 814 | Published 11 Feb 2015

    Evidence given by Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group, Lois Race, Service Manager, Welfare Benefits Information and Advice Team and Derbyshire discretionary fund, Derbyshire County Council, Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, Durham University, and Fiona Weir, Chief Executive Officer, Gingerbread, Ben Robinson, Head of Policy, Community Links, Steve Hughes, Head of Economic and Social Policy, Policy Exchange, Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union, Helen Flanagan, Vice-President DWP, Public and Commercial Services Union, and Professor David Stuckler, University of Oxford

  • 07 Jan 2015 - Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF406 KB) HC 814 | Published 11 Feb 2015

    Evidence given by Tony Wilson, Policy Director, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, Philip J. Connolly, Policy and Communications Manager, Disability Rights UK, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, Employment Related Services Association, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive Officer, Mind, and Matthew Oakley, recent independent reviewer of JSA sanctions, Keith Dryburgh, Policy Manager, Citizens Advice Scotland, Professor Peter Dwyer, Professor of Social Policy, University of York, and Principal Investigator, Welfare Conditionality project, Nikki Hart, Blackpool Food Partnership Co-ordinator, Methodist Action North West, Chris Mould, Chairman, the Trussell Trust, and Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow

Related information

The Oakley Review (2014)


The Oakley Review (PDF 566KB) was limited to consideration of the clarity of DWP’s, and contracted providers’, communication with claimants, and claimants’ understanding of the sanctioning process, including their options in relation to reviews of sanction decisions, appeals and the availability of hardship payments.

Matthew Oakley is an economist, who has worked at Policy Exchange and HM Treasury. He is currently head of economic analysis at Which?

External links

The following links include information relating to benefit sanctions:

Press release from February 2014 with current figures

Legislation enacting benefit sanctions, October 2012

Work and Pensions Committee report from January 2014