A report published today by the National Audit Office has found that sanctions on welfare payments are being handed out despite questionable evidence that they actually work.
The report also suggests that the Department for Work and Pensions is failing to monitor thousands of people whose benefits are being cut or withheld, while many are being pushed outside the benefits system altogether. It also claims that there has been a failure to measure whether the government is saving money.
The report reveals that the estimated cost to the department for administering sanctions in 2015 was £30m - £50m, with an additional £35m estimated to be given in hardship payments to those sanctioned in that same year. With the estimated value of benefits not made as a result of sanctions around £132m in 2015, and the impact on wider public spending as a result of sanctions unknown, the report questions whether the policy provides value for money.
Head of the National Audit Office comments
“Sanctions on benefits have a high opportunity cost, not only for those who are dependent on those benefits if sanctions are applied, but for the efficient use of public resources.
“We acknowledge the department's effort to reduce its error rate on sanctions, but we think there is more to do in terms of reducing them further, and in reducing the notable differences in sanctions applications between comparable localities.”
“With 26% of sanctions referred by providers overturned, and 11% referred by jobcentres, it is clear from this report that too many people are having the support that they rely on cut unfairly.
“Turn2us is frequently contacted by individuals who, as a result of sanctions, cannot afford basic living costs such as food or heating, and that is simply unacceptable.
“Evidence suggests that concerns about making ends meet often contribute to it being harder for people to find work and get themselves out of poverty. Which is why it is so important that people are aware of what support they are entitled to and that the support is administered in fair and accessible way."
Read the full report on the National Audit Office website
If you are struggling financially, you can use our free Benefits Calculator to make sure you’re claiming your full entitlements. Even if you’ve checked in the past, it’s worth doing so again, especially if you’ve seen a recent change in circumstances.
You can also check if you are eligible for a charitable grant or other support by using our Grants Search.
If you are worried about any of the benefit changes and would like further advice on your particular situation, you can use our Find an Adviser tool to locate face-to-face advice in your local area.