David Webster: Sanctions and Mandatory Reconsideration

David Webster has asked me to post his latest report on sanctions.  He writes:

This release includes the first analysis of the new system of Mandatory Reconsideration. MR has been widely misunderstood. It has fundamentally changed the whole appeal process. It has greatly reduced the number of challenges to sanctions and has killed off appeals to independent Tribunals, completely in the case of ESA and almost completely for JSA. Overall the proportion of JSA sanctions overturned has stayed the same, but the proportion of ESA sanctions overturned has fallen from 35% to 20%. It seems quite likely that this is due to ESA claimants not being able to cope with the phone calls that are now made to them at home as part of the Mandatory Reconsideration process.

Ministers claim that only a ‘tiny minority’ of JSA claimants are sanctioned, but FoI response 2014-4972 shows that almost one fifth (18.4%) of claimants in 2013/14 were sanctioned, after reviews/reconsiderations and appeals. The proportion before challenges will have been about one fifth. Of the individuals sanctioned in the year to June 2014, almost one third (30.9% ) were sanctioned more than once in the year.

There were an estimated 895,000 JSA and ESA sanctions in the year to September 2014, before challenges. As a percentage of claimants, JSA sanctions have stabilised at around double the level inherited by the Coalition.

The estimated amount of money lost to claimants through JSA sanctions imposed in 2013/14 is in the region of £328m, with almost £5m lost to ESA claimants. This is without including the money lost to people driven off benefits altogether.

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