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Friday 3rd
posted by Morning Star in Features

CHARLOTTE HUGHES wonders where the vasts amounts of money the DWP saved from its sanctions regime has got to

BENEFIT sanctions have sadly become a part of everyday life for anyone claiming jobseekers’ allowance (JSA), universal credit and the workrelated element of employment support allowance.

As well as the cost to health, life and the ability for the person who has been sanctioned to survive, there is also a far greater cost which, so far, hasn’t been questioned.

As stated in The Daily Record, the sanctions regime costs the government £285 million pounds a year to run and yet saves only £132m pounds a year. This leaves a deficit of £153m, making it far more costly to run than the actual amount that it saves.

As well as the lack of evidence that any benefit sanction is beneficial to a person looking for work, it is also far more costly to the taxpayer than it was purported to be when it was first announced.

However, so far the savings that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is making by issuing sanctions hasn’t been noted.

The National Audit Office (NAO) says that in 2015 400,000 benefit sanctions were issued to benefit claimants.

There are many kinds of benefits sanctions and the NAO doesn’t specify which benefits these sanctions were applied to. But if we look at JSA alone, we can see that quite a large sum of money is unaccounted for.

A person over 25 claiming JSA with no dependents would get around £74 a week. And a JSA benefits sanction lasts for at least four weeks. So for example, if these 400,000 sanctions were only applied to JSA claimants for the minimum period, then that would mean the DWP saved at least £29.6m.

My question is where has the money gone? There is no proof that this money is being reinvested in jobcentres. Nor is there proof this money has gone to the claimants to support them on their quest to find work.

The DWP has announced a long list of jobcentre closures, and relocations of offices into local government buildings to save money. But the facts are that if we look at these figures, which are far higher than I have estimated, there is at least £29.6m in the DWP money pot that isn’t being spent.

I wonder if the DWP is already saving this amount of money, does it indeed justify the closure of essential Jobcentres? I find it abhorrent that vilification of the poorest and most vulnerable appears to be a constant in the national press, yet the government isn’t being questioned over its terrible transparency record. This needs to be questioned with the greatest urgency.

And is the sanction regime just about saving money rather than helping people into work? I have to admit, that after seeing these figures, I find the former more likely. It is heinous to put a person’s wellbeing at risk just to save some money that isn’t being accounted for. To the Tories, human life means nothing as long as money can be saved.