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18/12/13 11:01

Thousands hit by welfare penalties

Benefits loss shows need for ‘distinctive Scottish system’.

In the last eight months Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions’ have led to over 35,000 Scots having their benefits stopped or reduced.

This is because DWP judge them not to have done enough to find work.

However, Scottish Government analysis published today shows that claimants are often unable rather than unwilling to comply with the conditions placed upon them.

Furthermore, it is disadvantaged groups – people with health problems, those lacking work experience, and lone parents – who are disproportionately affected.

One in eight of those deprived of benefits in Scotland have had the highest level of sanctions imposed, which can result in benefits being stopped for up to three years.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“This research shows that some of the most vulnerable Scots are having their benefits stopped because they are simply not able to meet the conditions set by the UK Government. This may help explain why so many more people are being forced to use food banks.”

“This is another demonstration of why we need a Scottish welfare system based on clear principles of fairness and dignity.

“Scotland’s system would support people who work while also providing support for people who cannot work, protect people from poverty, and help them fulfil their potential, in work and in life.

“The Expert Working Group on Welfare is considering these and other principles as it explores how the benefits system should enable people who can work to move into sustained employment, and how it can support people who can't work to participate in society as fully as possible.

“The recommendations of the Expert Working Group will be available in the Spring, well in advance of the referendum, in order to further inform the debate.”

Notes to editors

The Scottish Governemnt analysis paper ‘The potential impacts of benefit sanctions on individuals and households’ can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/welfarereform/analysis/analysisonsanctions

Jobseeker’s Allowance statistics published by DWP are available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-june-2013

From 22nd October 2012 DWP introduced a regime of fixed period sanctions for Jobseeker’s Allowance, which replaced the previous sanction rules.

Under the new regime:

Higher level sanctions (for example for leaving a job voluntarily) will lead to

claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of 13 weeks for a first failure,

26 weeks for a second failure and 156 weeks for a third and subsequent

failure (within a 52 week period of their last failure).

Intermediate level sanctions of four weeks for a first failure, rising to 13

weeks for a second or subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their

last failure) may be applied following a period of disallowance for not actively

seeking employment or not being available for work.

Lower level sanctions (for example for failing to attend an adviser interview)

will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of four weeks for

the first failure, followed by 13 weeks for subsequent failures (within a 52 week

period of their last failure)