I’m on my way back from a discussion with housing providers. Our main subject was Employment and Support Allowance, but sanctions are a subject that comes up continually – not least because misclassification and administrative mistakes often end up with claimants being sanctioned for non-compliance. Among the examples of sanctions raised by the agencies, there were
- a woman refused access to the Job Centre because she had a baby with her (no children are allowed) and sanctioned because she was unable to get in for the interview
- a claimant with poor mental health declared fit for work, and sanctioned immediately afterward because he wasn’t able to remember anything he’d done about it, and
- a homeless, pregnant woman whose benefit was stopped because she changed her address. (‘I thought there must be more to it than that’, the adviser told me, ‘so I rang up to find out. Yes, the person in the call centre said, it was because she changed her address.’)
Any benefit system has to have conditions. But, the workers were saying, there is an imbalance here. Any default by claimants is dealt with immediately. Bad decisions are difficult to challenge and slow to change.