A Critical Analysis of the Use of Disallowances and Sanctions in the UK Unemployment Benefit System since 1911

A Critical Analysis of the Use of Disallowances and Sanctions in the UK Unemployment Benefit System since 1911

The UK system of benefit sanctions for unemployed people has recently become increasingly controversial because of its evident role in creating destitution, as evidenced most vividly in the increased use of food banks. Yet there are virtually no existing academic studies of this system. This project aims to fill this gap.

A policy consensus has emerged in the UK and across the OECD countries that financial sanctions are a necessary part of an unemployment benefit system. However there is growing evidence of widespread official abuse of sanctions in the UK, and of resulting damage to individuals and society. Moreover much of the policy discussion around sanctions indicates ignorance of the historical background and relies on debatable economic assumptions. This project aims to provide a comprehensive critical re-evaluation of the use of disallowances and sanctions in the UK unemployment benefit system, going back to its foundation in 1911. The objective is to find out what the disallowance/sanction system has actually done in quantitative terms and then to relate this to changing labour market conditions, in order to establish whether stated rationales survive scrutiny of outcomes. Evidence on alternative ways of influencing the behaviour of unemployed people, where appropriate, will also be considered.

Major components of the work are:

  • Review of the existing literature on unemployment benefit disallowances and sanctions, with particular reference to the UK.
  • Compilation of a consistent statistical series for 1913 to date of disallowances or sanctions for each of the main categories of benefit condition or reason for sanction. This has not previously been attempted.
  • Historical analysis of changes in official UK practice in relation to disallowances and sanctions and of the stated and possible unstated reasons for them, including the prevalence of differing economic theories about unemployment.
  • Analysis of the impact of disallowances and sanctions on unemployed claimants, on the labour market, and more widely on society.

The analysis draws on the researcher’s earlier published work on unemployment and related issues.

Researcher

  • Dr David Webster (Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)

Publications

Webster, D. (2013) ‘JSA Sanctions and Disallowances’, Written Evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system, 22 May, revised and corrected 8 August.

Webster, D. (2013) ‘Geographical Variations in JSA Sanctions and Disallowances’, Supplementary Written Evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system, 8 August.

Webster, D. (2013) ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions and Disallowances’, Working Brief 233, Autumn, 6-7.

Webster, D. (2013) ‘The DWP’s Updated Statistics on JSA Sanctions: What do they show?’, Further Supplementary Written Evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system, 20 November.

Webster, D. (2013) ‘Sanctions and Homelessness’, presentation to the Homeless Action Scotland 14th National Homelessness Conference, Edinburgh, 21 November.

Webster, D. (2014) Evidence submitted to the Independent review of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) sanctions for claimants failing to take part in back to work schemes, 10 January, revised 13 January.

Read more

Visit www.cpag.org.uk/david-webster for quartely briefings on the DWP's benefit sanctions statistics, commentaries and evidence submissions.