Sanctions: Changes and your rights.

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With Universal Credit coming into force, not only will you get less money and be expected to pay more towards Council Tax, sanctions are now going to be tougher.There has already been a massive rise in sanctions Between 2009 and 2011 the number of sanctions handed out to claimants tripled to reach over half a million. In January this year 85,000 people were sanctioned, suggesting that the number of sanctions could reach one million this year.They are using any excuse possible, to hold back payments and make the lives of claimants for difficult and the system increasingly hard to follow. Sanctions will be enforced quicker and for longer periods of time. Here is some info on the changes and info on the appeal process.

Changes to Sanctions:

  • Shortest sanction (lateness or missing an interview, even due to job interviews) has changed from 1 to 4 weeks.
  • This will be increased to 13 weeks for your second “offence”.
  • Intermediate level sanctions also attract four then 13 week sanctions, but it is not detailed what this is for, except that they follow a period of disallowance. This will include not being available for work.
  • Higher level sanctions cover the “worst offences” that you can make as a job seeker. These include: Not applying for jobs and not taking part in mandatory work schemes.

JSA

Sanction Level: Lower

  • Failure to attend adviser interview
  • Failure to participate without good reason in Employment, Skills and Enterprise (ESE) Schemes
  • Failure to comply with Jobseeker Direction
  • Neglect to avail of place on programme or training course
  • Refuse, fail to attend or lose through misconduct a place on a programme or training course

First sanction is 4 weeks, second is 13 weeks.

Sanction Level: Intermediate

Only applied following a  new claim within a certain period

Follows disallowance for available/actively seeking work

First sanction: 4 weeks, second sanction: 13 weeks

Sanction Level: Higher

  • “Leaving a Job Voluntarily
  • Losing a Job Through Misconduct
  • Failure to participate without good reason in Mandatorw Work Activity Scheme
  • Negelct to avial of employment opportunity
  • Refuse or fail to apply for a job

First sanction: 13 weeks, Second sanction: 26 weeks, Third sanction 156 weeks (3 years).

Follows disallowance for available/actively seeking work

Sanction Periods:

The higher level sanctions period will be a reduction in benefit for :

  •  13 weeks for a first failure or
  •  26 weeks for a second failure occurring within 52 weeks of the previous failure
  • 56 weeks where there have been two or more previous failures and the most recent failure occurred within 52 weeks and the most recent failure  resulted in a 26 week or 56 week sanction or  would have resulted in a 26 week or 156 week sanction.

The lower and intermediate sanction period will be:

  • 4 weeks for a first failure
  • Then up to 13 weeks loss of benefit
  • This will include disentitlement for intermediate sanctions.

As sanctions will be applied to universal credit, this means part time and low income workers will also see themselves effected by the sanctions when Universal Credit gets underway. The government propose to provide hardship loans to compensate the lack of benefit. These will be £42 per week, then this will be taken from your benefit when it is finally reinstated, driving people further into poverty.

There is also a problem with housing benefit, and whether people with longer sanctions will have problems with proving they are eligible if they have any problems with their claim. In Birmingham, Sifa Fireside, who work with homeless and vulnerably housed people, say “housing benefit is increasingly suspended for job seekers”. This problem can only increase with longer sanctions in place, leaving people at even greater risk of homelessness.

Appealing Sanctions and Your Rights:

‘Good reason’ why a sanction should not be applied

A sanction will not be applied if you can show that you had ‘good reason’ for your action that led to a sanction being considered. ‘Good reason’ is not defined in legislation, but will depend on your circumstances. The guidance for decision makers suggests that the following factors should be taken into account when deciding whether a claimant has good reason for their actions

  • If you are a victim of domestic violence you can be treated as available for and actively seeking work for up to 13 weeks. Even after that 13 week period a fear of domestic violence may mean you have good reason for refusing or leaving employment
  • If you have a mental health condition or disorder, or if you are homeless
  • If you are a victim of bullying or harassment at work, or you left your job because you were a whistle blower.

SANCTIONS AND ‘WORK FOR YOUR BENEFIT’ SCHEMES

On 12 February 2013 the Court of Appeal decided that JSA rules, introduced in 2011, setting up a number of work placement schemes, with sanctions applied if claimants did not comply, had not been properly made. The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011 were found to be unlawful and quashed.

The Government immediately issued replacement regulations) enabling the schemes to continue, and has said that it intends to appeal the decision.

If the Government does not appeal, or its appeal is unsuccessful, it is likely that anyone who has had their JSA reduced or sanctioned for non-compliance in one of these schemes would be entitled to a refund of benefit. If your JSA was sanctioned for another reason not related to one of these schemes, such as not applying for a recommended job vacancy, you are not affected by this decision.

The schemes affected by the decision are ‘work for your benefit’ schemes, and are known by a number of different official names, including

  • The Jobcentre Plus offer
  • The Work Programme
  • The New Enterprise Allowance scheme
  • Full time training flexibilities
  • Skills conditionality
  • The Support for the Long Term Unemployed Trailblazer
  • Mandatory youth activity programme
  • Get Britain Working measures
  • The sector-based work academy (“sbwa”)
  • The Community Action Programme (“CAP”), a programme for the very long-term unemployed and a part of the Trailblazer programme”.
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