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No evidence that punitive sanctions regime works, says Community Links

04 Feb 2015

The Work and Pensions Select Committee are today taking evidence from Minister for Employment Esther McVey, as part of their Inquiry into benefit sanctions policy. Ms McVey is expected to defend the government’s regime of jobseeker sanctions which have roughly doubled under the Coalition Government, in spite of widespread agreement that there is no evidence on whether sanctions get people into long-term jobs.

Ben Robinson, Community Links Head of Policy, who gave evidence to the Inquiry said: “The punitive sanctions regime introduced in 2012 has caused huge unnecessary hardship – and removing people’s money can sometimes prevent them from finding a job. There is simply not enough evidence about the best form of sanctions to encourage people into work. We need a full review of the sanctions regime, and until then the rules around sanctioning jobseekers should be reversed to their pre-2012 levels. We also need a first-warning system, to prevent jobseekers having their benefits stopped the first time they make a mistake – and to ensure they understand the conditions of their benefit claim.”

 Community Links’s call for a change to the sanctions regime has been echoed by a range of organisations, including Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group, Gingerbread, and centre-right think tank Policy Exchange. Witnesses at the Inquiry have been unanimous that there is no evidence that the current system is the best at getting people into work.



Community Links’s written evidence to the Inquiry included the story of one claimant, Rita, who was sanctioned multiple times while she was trying to gain more work experience. Rita was sanctioned when she failed to sign on at the jobcentre, even though the reason for this was that she was doing voluntary work at her local community centre, and despite the fact that she had gained the prior agreement of JCP advisor and complied with everything the WP wanted her to. She felt she was sanctioned simply for doing work experience.

Sanctions led to Rita not having enough money to eat or go anywhere, which ironically made the job search even harder. Due to the sanction, she didn’t have money to go to a job interview. Rita was later sanctioned again when she missed a meeting at JCP due to a hospital appointment; again in spite of having previously got prior agreement using official documentation to prove her hospital visit.

Eventually, Rita decided to cease her claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance, due to repeat sanctioning; as such she is no longer receiving any formal support to move into employment.



Notes for editors:

1. Interviews and further case studies are available on request – contact Liam Crosby on 02074739674 or .

2. Community Links is a social action charity running a wide range of community projects for over 16,000 people every year. Based in Newham, we have over 30 years of experience working with local people to support children, young people, adults and families.

3. Ben Robinson gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on 21st January. For more information on the points Ben made, see

4. For Community Links’ written submission to the Inquiry, see