The harsh sanctions regime has been a controversial issue over the last few years, with claimants being refused benefits for up to 3 years in extreme cases. New rules in force from 27 November 2019 offer some relief for claimants as the maximum length of a sanction is being reduced down to 6 months and, importantly, this change also applies to claimants already serving a 3-year sanction. Our Money Advice Officer explores how these changes will operate.
What is a benefit sanction?
A benefit sanction is a penalty imposed on a claimant meaning a loss of income when they do not meet conditions imposed by the Jobcentre. Some examples of these conditions are attending appointments at the Jobcentre, looking for work for an agreed amount of time each week, accepting reasonable offers of work, and taking part in training. If a claimant does not do these things and does not have a good reason for not doing them, their payments will be cut. There are currently different levels of sanctions ranging from 7 days to 3 years.
The highest level of sanction, which is reserved for when a claimant does not meet their conditions for a third or subsequent time, is being reduced from 3 years to 6 months. Anyone who has already had their benefit reduced for 6 months or more on 27 November 2019 should find that their sanction will end on 26th November 2019.
If, on the 27th November 2019 a claimant has not yet served 6 months of a 3 year sanction, their deductions will come to an end once their benefit has been reduced for 6 months.
As sanctions run consecutively, any further unserved sanctions or new sanctions imposed after 27 November 2019 could lead to longer periods where benefit is cut.
What if I disagree with the sanction?
All sanction decisions can potentially be challenged if there is a good reason why the conditions were not met. They can be challenged by asking for a reconsideration and quoting these good reasons, and even if the reconsideration is unsuccessful, you can still then appeal to an independent Tribunal to decide the case.
Where to get help
Our Money Advice Officer is here to help tenants of Warrington Housing Association, members of LifeTime and customers of Warrington Home Information & Improvement Agency, and can advise regarding how this change will affect you or regarding challenging a sanction decision. Otherwise, Warrington Citizen’s Advice can offer the same service.