Welfare Reform: Citz Eye View 2

Posted on: 18 June 2013

Written by: Petia

The next instalment on Welfare Reform is on sanctions from the Job Centre.

This is a hot topic that featured in Glasshouse and was part of Act Now’s award winning Money for Life play Ticks. Sanctions are having a big impact on people all over the country and knowing the facts will keep you one step ahead and hopefully help you avoid receiving one or know what to do if you do receive one.

First things first, the Claimant Commitment, what is it?
Receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance is now dependent on abiding by a Claimant Commitment. This has been introduced in the lead-up to Universal Credit being rolled out later this year. The Claimant Commitment is a record of responsibilities you need to carry out in order to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

So, what are sanctions?
If you fail to follow the Claimant Commitment without good cause or reason, you can receive a sanction. A sanction means your Jobseeker’s Allowance payments will be stopped for a period of time.

How do you get sanctioned?
Lower level sanctions involve 4 weeks loss of your benefits for your first failure to comply and 13 weeks loss of your benefits if you have repeat failures within 52 weeks of the last failure.

Lower level sanctions 'offences' include:
•    Failure to attend adviser interview;
•    Participate in an employment or training programme
•    Failure to comply with Jobseekers’ direction
•    Failure to attend, or the loss of a place on an employment or training programme

Intermediate level sanctions can be imposed if you fail to be available for work or actively seek work. They apply if you reclaim JSA after a previous claim to JSA was disallowed.

Higher level sanctions  mean losing your benefits for 13 weeks for your first offence, 26 weeks for your second offence if it’s within 52 weeks of your first offence and a whopping 3 years for a third offence if it’s within 52 weeks of your second offence!

Higher level sanctions ‘offences’ are applied if you:
•    Fail to apply for or accept if offered a suitable job without good reason
•    Refuse to participate in a mandatory work activity without good reason
•    Lose a job through misconduct or leaving a job voluntarily without good reason

Bottom Line
If you can avoid getting sanctioned, that’s great! If you have been sanctioned without just cause, don’t bury your head in the sand.
Get in touch with your Jobcentre office as soon as possible; explain your situation and state that you would like your sanction decision reconsidered, bringing evidence with you to support why you shouldn’t be sanctioned. This means the advisor or Manager in the office will reconsider your decision. If the decision doesn’t change, you will need to request that the process goes to formal appeal which will involve you needing to fill in a form and take the appeal to an independent tribunal.

It may be worth getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau for help: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm

If you are a Member of Cardboard Citizens, I may be able to help you in the first instance. Give me a call on 020 7377 8948 or email: tasneem@cardboardcitizens.org.uk

You may be able to get a Hardship payment to tie you over while you are sanctioned which is paid at a reduced rate during the sanction period. Just bear in mind that:
•    The amount of Hardship Payment paid is calculated as for Income Based JSA but the  personal allowance is reduced by 40%
•    You must show you would experience hardship if it were not paid, unless you are in one of the following vulnerable groups, in which case they should always be paid:

-    Pregnant
-    A carer
-    You have a chronic medical condition
-    You are responsible for a child who would experience hardship

With thanks to

Arts Council England Lottery funded