Tory crackdown on benefits doesn’t work – National Audit Office

A Job Centre Plus sign is seen in central London, Britain. © Toby Melville
There is no evidence that the Conservatives’ controversial benefits sanctions program works according to the influential National Audit Office (NAO).

A new report into the impact of sanctions, which critics say have served only to drive desperate poor people further into destitution, was published Wednesday.

It argues that there is no evidence that the measures work and that the UK government has made no attempt to properly monitor those who are subject to the punishments.

The study also argues that the government has failed to measure whether the sanctions save money for the British taxpayer.

Under the current DWP sanctions regime, claimants may face benefit cuts for a number of reasons, including missing or arriving late for JobCentre appointments or failing to go to enough job interviews.

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,” NAO chief Amyas Morse said in a statement.

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.

Labour’s Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, told the Guardian, “Benefit sanctions punish some of the poorest people in the country. But despite the anxiety and misery they cause, it seems to be pot luck who gets sanctioned.

While studies suggest sanctions do encourage some people back into work, other people stop claiming but do not start working and the Department for Work and Pensions has no record of them. If vulnerable people fall through the safety net, what happens to them?” Hiller added.