The UK government has put forward proposals for a two week “yellow card” system which will be trialled in Scotland this year. This is to give people two weeks to appeal and explain why a sanction should not be imposed, before their benefits are stopped or reduced.
The government says informing people two weeks in advance would “strike the right balance” between the rights of a claimant and strict conditionality rules. Sanctions can be applied to benefit payments when a person is deemed to have broken a “jobseeker’s agreement” which explains what is expected of a claimant in return for benefits.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said in October that the new system will allow claimants to provide further evidence to explain their non-compliance.
He said: “We will then review this information before deciding whether a sanction remains appropriate. We expect that this will strike the right balance between enforcing the claimant commitment and fairness".
The government has faced criticism for failing to address fundamental problems with their sanctions regime.
Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, Scottish National Party (SNP) spokesperson for Social Justice, said:
“Withdrawing a person’s welfare by sanctioning their benefit payments clearly does not work and the Tories themselves acknowledged this when they put forward proposals for a two-week 'yellow-card' warning system.
“Tinkering around the edges of the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP ’s) sanctions system is not going to resolve the deep flaws at its core. The Government’s own figures show that half of all Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sanctions were later overturned on appeal and the Poverty Alliance, Trussell Trust, Crisis and many more frontline organisations have said that sanctions simply do not work in getting people back to work.
“So while a two-week warning is better than no warning at all for someone who is about to lose their welfare payments, it is unacceptable for the Tories to paper over the cracks while failing to address the very real issues at the heart of the DWP ’s sanctions regime”
Under the current system, people can find their benefits stopped without warning and are not given an opportunity to defend their case, or argue that a sanction has been applied wrongly or unfairly.
Source: Eilidh Whiteford MP press release