Welfare Conditionality Project
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 and sick or disabled people has become increasingly controversial. It has been the subject of five official enquiries since 2013.
A policy consensus has emerged in the UK and across the OECD countries over the past 30 years that financial sanctions are a necessary part of a social security system. However, there are growing doubts about their efficacy and mounting evidence of 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 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 or workless 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.
- Dr David Webster (Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)
Webster, David. (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, David. (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, David. (2013) ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions and Disallowances’, Working Brief 233, Autumn, 6-7.
Webster, David. (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, David. (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.
Webster, David. (2014) JSA Sanctions: A Guide to the Oakley Report and the Government's Response, updated 14 September 2014, at http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/CPAG-Oakley-Report-Guide-DW-rev-14-Sept-2014.pdf
Webster, David. (2014) Evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Benefit Sanctions Policy beyond the Oakley Review, 12 December
Webster, David. (2016) Explaining the rise and fall of JSA and ESA sanctions 2010-16, 3 October, at http://www.cpag.org.uk/david-webster
Webster, David. (2016) Evidence submitted to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Benifits Sanctions, 6 December at http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/public-accounts-committee/benefit-sanctions/written/44119.pdf
Webster, David. (2018) Evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Benefit Sanctions, 10 May
Webster, David. (2018) The great benefit sanctions drive 2010-16 in historical perspective, presentation to the conference Welfare Conditionality: Principles, Practice and Perspectives, University of York, Wednesday 27 June 2018
Webster, David. (2018) United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 5-16 November 2018: Evidence Submitted by Dr David Webster, 14 September
Webster, D. (2019) Benefit sanctions, social citizenship and the economy. Local Economy, 34(3), pp. 316-326.(doi:10.1177/0269094219852336)
Parliamentary oral evidence
House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee
7th January 2015
16 May 2018
Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee
1 April 2014
- Socialist Health Association - ‘DWP’s Benefit Sanctions’, 9 October 2014 at http://www.sochealth.co.uk/2014/10/09/dwps-benefit-sanctions/
- ERSA (Employment Related Services Association) - ‘It’s time to abolish benefit sanctions’, 16 January 2015 at http://ersa.org.uk/media/blog/dr-david-webster-argues-its-time-abolish-benefit-sanctions
- Centre for Crime and Justice Studies- ‘Benefit sanctions: Britain's secret penal system’, 26 January 2015 at http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/benefit-sanctions-britains-secret-penal-system
- Poverty Alliance – Challenge Poverty Week - ‘”Poverty Punishment”Overkill: The deliberate creation of destitution through benefit sanctions’, 19 October 2015 at https://challengepoverty.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/poverty-punishment-overkill-the-deliberate-creation-of-destitution-through-benefit-sanctions/
- London School of Economics British Politics and Policy - ‘Benefit sanctions have failed: a Comprehensive Review is needed’, 5 January 2016 at https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/benefit-sanctions-have-failed-a-comprehensive-review-is-needed/
- ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Welfare Conditionality project - ‘Tackling Britain’s misleading benefit sanctions statistics’, 12 April 2016 at http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/2016/04/tackling-britains-misleading-benefit-sanctions-statistics/
UK Media Coverage
Wednesday 2 August 2017 ‘David Webster: “Benefit sanctions should be a thing of the past” Guardian ‘Society’ interview by Patrick Butler, p.31, expanded version on line at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/01/benefit-sanctions-thing-of-past-david-webster, published 1 August
Tuesday 30 January 2018 BBC2 TV, interview with John Owen included in ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ programme, 9.16-9.30 and 10.16-10.26am, recorded 23 January. Associated news story at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42860387
French Media Coverage
'Royaume-Uni:Tolérance zéro pour les chômeurs': Interview with Corentin Chrétien - Vox-Pop, Arte 1, Saturday 30 September 2017 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMCQy4MPq4w
L'Hour, Marion (2017) ‘Assurance chômage : le contre-modèle britannique’, - Alternatives Economiques, 18 October at https://www.alternatives-economiques.fr//assurance-chomage-contre-modele-britannique/00081143
Barbier, Jean-Claude (2018) ‘Pauvreté: Ne suivons pas l’exemple anglais’, Le Monde, 6 September, available under the title ‘L’emploi et le travail ne sont pas en mesure de résoudre les problèmes de pauvreté’ at https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2018/09/06/pauvrete-ne-suivons-pas-l-exemple-anglais_5350904_3232.html
Quarterly briefings on the Department of Work and Pensions' benefit sanctions statistics
Visit www.cpag.org.uk/david-webster for quarterly briefings on the DWP's benefit sanctions statistics, and also commentaries and evidence submissions.