Benefits sanctions: a policy based on zeal, not evidence

Benefit tales

The devastating National Audit Office report exposes Iain Duncan Smith’s project as an ineffective and hugely damaging racket

The quietly devastating National Audit Office (NAO) report shreds five years of ministerial bluster, misinformation and spin about the purported virtues of benefit sanctions, arguably one of the most brutal, controversial and ineffectual social policies of recent times.

Sanctions are a punishment applied to benefit claimants adjudged to have infringed jobcentre rules. If claimants fail to turn up for appointments or to apply for enough jobs, officials effectively fine them by stopping their benefit payments for a minimum of four weeks (around £300). Between 2011 and 2015, almost one in four of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants were sanctioned. In 2015 alone, sanctions led to an estimated £132m in benefits being withheld from some of the UK’s poorest citizens.

Anti-poverty campaigners, food banks, academics and MPs have warned for years that sanctions were

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