The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on Employment and Support Allowance
More than 5,000 sick and disabled people have had their benefits sanctioned for at least 6 months, new figures show.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance.
ESA is slowly replacing the ageing Incapacity Benefit and is now paid to 2.4million people.
Between December 2012 and December 2016, 71,543 ESA claimants have been sanctioned – which normally involves stopping their benefits.
Just over half of those claimants (40,288) had their benefits sanctioned for less than four weeks and the average length of a sanction was 28 days.
But 5,739 suffered a sanction for 27 weeks or more.
More than 70,000 people on ESA have been sanctioned since 2012
Another 6,579 claimants were sanctioned for between 14 and 26 weeks, statistics published yesterday show.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “It is abhorrent to see the Tories sanction thousands of sick and disabled people for up to six months, depriving them of much needed financial support and causing them further stress.
“The figures confirm that disabled people are not receiving the proper support from Jobcentres to navigate the complex social security system.”
Sanctions are only made against ESA claimants deemed fit for “work-related activity”, not those in the more serious support group, a DWP official said.
ESA sanctions are made for a fixed period of one, two or four weeks.
But they are open-ended and carry on indefinitely if people are still unable or refuse to take part in ‘work-related activity’.
The DWP, run by Tory minister David Gauke, insists sanctions are not widespread (Image: Getty Images Europe)
DWP officials insist this means no one will be sanctioned for six months if they play by the rules.
But campaigners argue assessments that deem people fit for work-related activity in the first place are flawed.
The vast majority of ESA sanctions – more than 90% since December 2015 – have been a punishment for people refusing to take part in that activity.
Meanwhile the rate paid to the work-related activity group has axed and made the same as Jobseekers’ Allowance – a cut of £30 a week.
Yesterday’s figures showed the number of people on Jobseekers’ Allowance or ESA being sanctioned is falling.
But Labour’s Debbie Abrahams said Jobcentres are not providing enough support (Image: Daily Mirror)
However the number of sanctions for people on Universal Credit, the all-in-one system that’s slowly being claimed by more and more people as it replaces the old benefits – hit an all-time monthly high of 9,119 in December 2016.
More than 100,000 Universal Credit claimants have now been sanctioned since August 2015, 2,313 of them for six months or more.
A DWP spokesman said: “Only a very small proportion of people on ESA are sanctioned every month – just 0.6%.
“ESA sanctions are designed to encourage people to fulfil their requirements, so they remain in place until someone re-engages with their work coach or employment support.
“It’s only fair to ask claimants to do their part and there is a well-established system of payments available for people who need support to meet their immediate and most essential needs.”