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Tougher benefit rules for jobseekers

Department for Work and Pensions website (link opens in a new window)Jobseekers who repeatedly refuse to take up job offers or leave work with a good reason face losing benefits for three years under tough new rules introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today.

This dramatically increases the amount of time by which Jobseeker's Allowance can be cut. It does not affect other payments, such as Housing Benefit.

New sanctions compared with old

Currently, jobseekers who break the most important rules, such as refusing to accept a reasonable job offer, can be subject to sanctions for between one week and six months. But the wide range means that some claimants do not have a clear understanding of the consequences of refusing to comply with the rules.

The Government says that the new sanctions regime introduced today will be clearer and more robust, and substantially aligns the current system with the rules which will be in force when Universal Credit is introduced.

There will be three levels of sanctions, ranging from four weeks for a minor offence to three years for serious repeat offenders. The new regime is tougher but fairer - and the rules will be clearly explained to all claimants from day one so that they are in no doubt that if they do not comply they will not get their benefit.

Comment from the Minister for Employment

Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said:

"Choosing a life on benefits when you're able to work is not an option.

"These rules send out a clear message to jobseekers. We will offer them the support they need to find work, but in return for receiving benefits they have responsibilities too. People cannot expect to keep their benefits if they do not hold up their end of the bargain."

Concerns

An article in the Guardian today says that these tougher measures "are likely to raise concerns about how well sometimes vulnerable people are advised about their choices and who makes decisions about whether a claimant is "unreasonable" to refuse a job offer or has left a job "without good reason".  And a new report by Citizens Advice Scotland published last week, reveals the extreme hardship some Scots are experiencing as a result of "a harsh new clampdown on jobseekers".

Sources: Department for Work and Pensions (link opens in a new window), Guardian (link opens in a new window), and Citizens Advice Scotland (link opens in a new window).

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