sanctions and homelessness

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Homeless Action Scotland 14th National Homelessness Conference Edinburgh - 21 November 2013. Sanctions and Homelessness. David Webster Urban Studies University of Glasgow. Outline. Huge increase in number & length of sanctions under Coalition - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Sanctions and Homelessness David Webster

    Urban StudiesUniversity of GlasgowHomeless Action Scotland

    14th National Homelessness Conference

    Edinburgh - 21 November 2013

  • OutlineHuge increase in number & length of sanctions under CoalitionStrong evidence that a high proportion are unreasonable, unlawful and pointlessLack of independence of DWP decision-making and useless appeal systemImpact on claimants in generalSpecific impacts on homelessness and on homelessWhat can be done?

  • The tightening sanctions regimeOne fifth (19%) of all JSA claimants Apr 2007-Mar 2012 = 1,483,760 people (FoI) more now860,000 sanctions in year to 30 June 2013 (was 500,000 in last year before Coalition)4.35% of all JSA claimants per month under Coalition (Labour: 2.6% per month 2000-2010)One third of homeless JSA & nearly one fifth of homeless ESA claimants sanctioned May-July 2013 (HomelessWatch)

  • Tightening regime (2)Abundant evidence of pressure on DWP staff to maximise sanctionsFewer referrals are getting favourable decisionsPeople are increasingly driven from claiming at all (reserved/cancelled decisions)

  • Tightening regime (3)All the most frequently occurring JSA sanctions lengthened from 22 Oct 2012ESA (WRAG) sanctions also much harsher from 3 Dec 2012 now lose all of personal allowance (previously only WRAG component)Minimum period now 4 weeksNow 3-year sanctions for repeat failures: already hit 700 JSA & 440 ESA claimants proportionally higher for ESAMax. penalty for 75 years to 1986 was 6 wks

  • 02/6

  • 01RevB/3

  • Changing reasonsPeople are more careful to hold on to a job in a recession - therefore, big fall in penalties for voluntary leaving/ misconduct (was always the main reason); availability staticCorrespondingly bigger rise in more aggressive sanctions, especiallyNot actively seeking work (now 36.3%)Non-participation in training/employment schemes (inc. Work Programme) (now 30.0%)Failure to attend advisory interview now 19.9%

  • Unreasonable (=unlawful) sanctionsSanctions have gone up when the claimant count includes hundreds of thousands of people who would normally be in workHuge volumes of anecdotal evidence indicate that many sanctions are unfair, negligent or downright fraudulentThis is possible because there is no legal protection for claimants other than a Tribunal appeal system which hardly anyone usesFurther reduction in safeguards, e.g. since Oct 12 a JS Direction can be given orally!

  • Unreasonable sanctions (2)Ministers have not set targets but they clearly have driven up sanctions through management actionExpectationsPerformance reviews and PIPsScorecardA regular "deep throat" DWP correspondent describes the work: "You park your conscience at the door. Sanctions are applied for anything at all to hit the targets. - Polly Toynbee, Guardian, 8 Nov 2013

  • Unreasonable sanctions (3)Had 2 job interviews. Informed Jobcentre I would be a little late. Was 15 minutes late. They sanctioned me anyway.I was supposed to apply for 7 jobs a week, I applied for 10 one week and 5 the next week, so they sanctioned me for a week (NB This would now be 4 weeks)I am epileptic and cant apply for certain jobs thats why I am limited, I apply for 5-10 jobs that I can do but its not enough.Had to look after my mum. She is disabled and was very ill.A letter was returned which they sent to the wrong address.

  • Unreasonable sanctions (4)They recommended two jobs for me to apply for but at that time I didnt know how to use the website and was waiting to see my personal adviser for help, but he was on holiday when the sanction occurred.I was left with no money because I did not go to a course that I cant understand anyway as I have learning difficulties.Did not do enough to find work, in between FINDING work and starting it.

    Manchester CAB, Punishing Poverty

  • Esther McVey, Employment Minister - 6 Nov 2013The vast, vast majority of people don't get sanctions The people who get sanctions are wilfully rejecting support for no good reason.. Sanctions are only applied in the most serious cases.. We'll do everything to stop you having a sanction.ALL OF THE ABOVE IS INCORRECT, AND OBVIOUSLY SO.

  • Hardship paymentsBrutal regime dating from 1996 (JS Act 1995)Hardship payments 60% of JSA (rarely, 80%)Harsh test, e.g. no payment if cash from a payday lender exceeds applicable amountTwo-week wait before application except for arbitrarily defined vulnerable - officially acknowledged to damage healthIn 2005 one quarter getting 60%, 1 in 67 80%Effects particularly serious for homelessUnder Universal Credit will become repayable

  • Appeal systemCurrent system designed by Peter Lilley, enacted by New Labour (Harriet Harman)Social Security Act 1998 ended independent adjudication (in existence since 1911), transferred decisions to Secretary of StateAppeal Stage 1: internal reconsiderationAppeal Stage 2: Tribunal (legal aid ended 1/4/13)Few appeal seen as long and futile, lack of support, cant afford phone calls/stamps/faresTribunal rulings set no precedent so Sec of State can keep using same unfair devices

  • Appeal system (2)April 2000 to April 2012 inclusive:17.0% asked for reconsideration, 52.8% successfulOnly 1.8% appealed to a tribunal, 17% successfulNov 2012 to June 2013 inclusive:25.3% asked for reconsideration, 50.9% successful (= 4% freed of sanctions by extra 1st stage appeals)1.7% appealed to a tribunal, 42.2% successfulMassively increased Tribunal success rate suggests that many/most of the extra sanctions are dishonest but few go to Tribunal

  • Coalition govt

  • Impact on homelessness: Sources of informationThree recent major reports:Homeless Link/CRISIS/St Mungos The Programmes Not Working (Nov 2012)CRISIS Dashed Hopes, Lives on Hold (Jun 2013)HomelessWatch A High Price to Pay: the impact of benefit sanctions on homeless people (Sept 2013) survey of 52 organizationsMany CAB reports inc. Gtr Manchester CAB survey Punishing Poverty (Oct 2013)Huge amount in newspapers & on web

  • Sources of information (2)DWP has no useful research on sanctions and homelessnessThe most recent govt research on sanctions does not mention homelessness (Peters & Joyce, DWP 2006)Research design not likely to find homeless people - one third (32%) of their sample had moved and could not be includedSanctions running at much lower level in 2004 when fieldwork done

  • Sanctions and homelessness: Two aspectsEffect of sanctions in making people homeless

    Impact of sanctions on homeless peopleSame as on anyoneParticular effects on homeless people

  • Sanctions: Creating homelessnessOf 45 services responding to HomelessWatch, 23 said clients had been evicted as a result of sanctionsThere is no way of estimating total number losing their homes, but it is clearly substantial Main problems are:Loss of Housing Benefit/Council Tax reduction through lack of informationArrears of service charges not covered by HBFamily disputes resulting from sanctionsGeneral loss of ability to cope

  • Creating homelessness (2)Housing & Council Tax Benefit/ReductionSanctioned claimants passported HB/CTB/CTR claim is terminatedBut claimant is not told that they must submit a new claim on the basis of nil incomeThis looks deliberateResult is that claimant starts to run up arrears and often ends up evicted

  • Creating homelessness (3)HB/CTR max. backdating reduced to 6 months Oct 2008 and only allowed if good reason sanctioned claimants dont appear to get itEven if HB continues:Homeless hostels have additional charges not met by HB 30 of 39 organizations reported arrears in these due to sanctions (HomelessWatch)Council Tax in England now also usually has a percentage not met by CTRSanctioned claimants must meet these from nil or heavily reduced income

  • Creating homelessness (4)Martin, bricklayer, missed appointment because in hospital. Sanctioned 4 months. Lived off family & friends. Lost home, now in hostel. Won appeal but still in hostel BBC Radio Sheffield, 4 Nov 2013Because my Housing Benefit wasnt paid for 3 months and still hasnt been reinstated Im facing eviction and Im a full time carer to my adult son Manchester CAB

  • Creating homelessness (4)At 52 years of age I lost my home and my 21 year old son, who has had to move in with his girlfriends family. We are both sofa-surfing with absolutely no hope for a future of any kind..I stay with a friend who feeds me, but have been suicidal for a long while nowI have been kicked out of my mothers household due to being sanctioned and Im now homeless Manchester CABOne young homeless man described how his mother asked him to leave home in part because he could not repay the money he borrowed from her after he was sanctioned HomelessWatch

  • Impact on claimants, homeless or notDamage to health & family relationshipsDebtFamily and friends suffer hardshipSanctions cause 25% of Food Bank useIncreased crime (incl. survival theft )People pushed into worse jobs that dont lastClaimants & employers time wasted through pointless job applicationsPeople alienated from employment servicesClaimants fear to complain re bad treatment

  • Impact (2)I had no income, and had to borrow from my parents (who are also on benefits and don't get much income). It has affected me mentally, and I am severely depressed and having anxiety attacks. Starved and lived off what I had. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days.Ive lost over 2 stone in weight through lack of food.

  • Impact (3)My mum has been taken to court and fined for not being able to pay the shor


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