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Benefits sanctions and young people
June 4th, 2018
Depaul UK has made a submission to the Government's Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into benefit sanctions.
Sanctions are imposed on those claiming benefits for failing to meet conditions like attending a work placement or arriving late for a Job Centre appointment.
The inquiry is considering evidence on the impact of sanctions. It will also consider the effectiveness of benefit sanctions in helping people to get off benefits and into work.
In the submission to the Select Committee Inquiry, Depaul UK shows how benefit sanctions harm young people affected by homelessness. When young people are sanctioned they are left without enough money to live on, so have to borrow money and use foodbanks. Sanctioning leaves young people we work with unable to pay for transport to doctors’ and Job Centre appointments, as well as damaging their mental health.
Depaul recommends that Job Centre staff should be trained to make better use of their discretionary powers so that they do not apply inappropriate sanctions. We also recommend that the Government evaluates its sanctions policy and ensures that young people are not left without enough money to meet their essential living expenses.
A previous inquiry, held in 2015, into benefit sanctions was described in the media as seeing: "Copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control."
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: "Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to account for individual circumstance and be applied proportionately and fairly.
"I've seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved.
"We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements."
Depaul UK Policy and Public Affairs Manager Daniel Durmoulin said: "The evidence we have collected here at Depaul UK indicates that benefits sanctions can exacerbate the problems faced by someone experiencing homelessness. One young person living in Depaul UK supported housing was sanctioned soon after opening a claim because she had signed a Claimant Commitment with requirements it was unrealistic for her to meet.
"Emma* was left with just £150 each month to meet all of her costs apart from rent. She had to use foodbanks and Depaul UK paid for her travel to medical appointments.
"Thankfully, after intervention by a Depaul UK member of staff, Emma*'s advisor became more accommodating to the issues she was facing and she is no longer claiming Universal Credit but is instead receiving Employment and Support Allowance."