Work Programme: You can still withdraw consent to share personal data with a Third Party

“However, whilst on the Work Programme, participants may withdraw consent that they have given where it concerns their provider sharing data with a third party.

Where participants have given their consent for the Work Programme provider to share their data with a third party, they may withdraw this consent at any time”
Source: DWP Central FoI Team  – 28 February 2014

Or do not give consent in the first place!

“For consent to be fully informed and freely given you need to tell the customer exactly why you need the information, what you are going to do with it and whom you might share it with. We cannot put any conditions on a customer to try and persuade them to consent.Source: DWP Jobcentre  policy on Consent


Housing Benefit sanctions under Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element)

“Part-time workers judged to be doing too little to find full-time work face having their benefit for housing costs sanctioned by the government for the first time under universal credit.”

Housing element can be sanctioned under UC?
“It’s odd this has suddenly been reported now – it has been a feature of UC from the outset.  It is not strictly correct to say that the housing element will be sanctioned…For the same reasons, it could also be said that the child elements of UC can be sanctioned” – 3 March 2014

If the article above is understood correctly the maximum Universal Credit (UC) sanction is equal to the UC Standard Allowance element, which at present is £71.89 per week for a single person aged 25 or over. (£10.27 per day)

Hardship payments
(Claim Form (JSA / ESA) and Guidance )

At present anyone who gets a Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit sanction can claim lower value means tested Hardship Payments, a key difference under UC is that they would be treated as Loans.

Conditions for hardship payments
(Universal Credit)

Regulation 116 – The Universal Credit Regulations 2013

2) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(g) a single claimant or joint claimants must be considered as being in hardship only where—

(a) they cannot meet their immediate and most basic and essential needs

(3) The needs referred to in paragraph (2) are—

  • (a) accommodation;
  • (b) heating;
  • (c) food;
  • (d) hygiene.

Below are examples to explore this, Sam’s example is based upon not having any UC claim, whereas Jo’s is on a purely speculative basis and shows what could happen under UC, noting that it is at present a pilot, without full in-work conditionality being applied*.

  • Sam aged 40 lives alone in a one bedroom flat in Hammersmith, they have a part-time job and earn £311.55 per month and has been getting £100 Housing Benefit per week for 2 years. Bob is not looking for any additional work or a better paid job. No sanctions can apply to Bob’s Housing Benefit on the basis that they are not looking for more of better paid work.
  • Jo aged 40 lives alone in a one bedroom flat in Hammersmith, they have a part time job and earn £311.55 per month and get £400 per month Universal Credit including the Housing Costs Element. The DWP discovers that Jo has refused to take the offer of a better paid job and gets a UC credit “higher level sanction” lasting 3 months, losing £311.55 per month, leaving just £22.11 per week to live on and pay the rent.

*Universal Credit pilot

As UC is running as a pilot, the full in-work conditionality to look for more or better paid work when in-work as in the case of Jo above has yet to be introduced. The in-work “threshold” is touted as being equal to 35 hours per week at minimum wage and therefore anyone getting UC payments would be required to look for more or better paid work up to that threshold. However, in December 2013 the DWP stated the threshold stood at “£330 a month for a single person and £525 a month for a couple“.

“A conditionality earnings threshold is in place to ensure that claimants earning above a certain level will not be asked to carry out work-related activity. This will normally be 35 hours x NMW). Claimants earning less than the conditionality earnings threshold may be asked to carry out relevant actions to increase their earnings (based on individual circumstances such as health, caring responsibilities etc.). An administrative earnings threshold has been introduced  to ensure that only those claimants who would currently be eligible for the existing out of work benefits will fall into an active labour market regime. The threshold has been set at £330 a month for a single person and £525 a month for a couple (based on gross taxable pay). ” Source: DWP Central FoI Team  – 17 December 2013

The daily rate of a UC sanctions is set at 40% of the Standard Allowance when:

  • claimant is aged 16 or 17
  • responsible carer for a child under the age of 1
  • adopter, claimant within 11 weeks before or 15 weeks after confinement or responsible foster parent of a child under the age of 1
  • claimant subject to work-focused interview only

The daily reduction rate is nil

  • at the end of the assessment period, the claimant falls within section 19 of the Act by virtue of having limited capability for work and work-related activity

In the case of joint claimants

  • each joint claimant is considered individually for the purpose of determining the rate applicable under paragraphs (1) to (3); and
  • half of any applicable rate is applied to each joint claimant accordingly.

The Universal Credit Regulations 2013: Amount of reduction for each assessment period

This post would not have been written without the research of Paul Hebden, his earlier view about Universal Credit Housing Costs Element (Housing Benefit) sanctions was doubted.

Questions of this sort had been asked before, but deciphering the meaning has taken a while!

“Universal Credit includes a standard allowance to cover ordinary daily living expenses similar to existing income-related benefits plus other elements relevant to personal circumstances such as the housing costs element or the child care costs element.

A sanction reduces a claimant’s Universal Credit award by an amount never more than their standard allowance element entitlement only.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number
above ”
Source: DWP Central FoI Team – 13 November 2013

DWP plans vouchers [Card] only, for benefit sanctions Hardship Payments?

Food vouchers are a “last chance saloon” for families – 3 March 2014
BBC’s Panorama is tonight to reveal that more than a third of all local councils in England and Wales are subsidising food banks, with almost £3 million set aside to fund them in recent years. ‘Hungry Britain? will be broadcast at 8.30pm tonight on BBC One.

Got a Benefit Sanction? have a Benefit Card (aka Voucher) – 3 March 2014
“Under the proposals, first time offenders would be issued with a benefits card credited with their weekly benefit as opposed to facing four weeks without funds as the system now stands. Benefits would be accessed via this card for a maximum of eight weeks. If the claimant continues to breach job search conditions, the card and benefits would be taken away.”

Child poverty strategy to be unveiled later this week [Thursday] – 24th February 2014
“lowering food bills through vouchers”



Young people being pressured to do Youth Contract workfare

Customers’ experiences of the Youth Contract Workfare
“Around one in three respondents (36 per cent) agreed that they felt under pressure to take part in activities that were not suited to their needs and circumstances…while 13 per cent were offered [forced onto] a placement on Mandatory Work Activity.[workfare] More than one in three (38 per cent) said they were offered a [workfare] work experience placement…Work experience placements [workfare] were most likely to be in a shop…Around one in five (21 per cent) work experience [workfare] participants said that their Jobcentre Plus adviser did not speak to them before they were referred onto their placement”

Your rights to take support to Jobcentre appointments and have others act on your behalf

“Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…Claimants can have a variety of people accompany them such as Representatives, Appointees, Corporate acting bodies or Personal acting bodies.  Guidance for [DWP] staff includes the information provided below ”

Benefit Sanctions briefing, on DWP stats release of 19 Feb 2014 by

Key points from the new statistics

Highest numbers and rates of sanctions to date

Total JSA plus ESA sanctions in the year to 30 September 2013 were 897,690. This is the highest for any 12-month period since JSA was introduced in 1996. (Figure 1)

The number of JSA sanctions in the year to 30 September 2013 was 874,850, the highest since JSA was introduced in 1996. It compares with 500,000 in the year to 30 April 2010, the last month of the previous Labour government. (Figure 1)

In the year to 30 September 2013, JSA claimants were sanctioned at the rate of 5.11% per month, and in the 3 months to 30 September 2013 at the rate of 6.00% per month. These are the highest rates recorded since the start of JSA in 1996. (Figure 2)

Over the whole period of the Coalition, JSA sanctions have run at 4.42% of JSA claimants per month. This compares with approximately 2.46% during the Labour government from May 1997 to April 2010. (Note: I have previously given a figure of 2.60% for the monthly rate of sanctions under the Labour government but this was from April 2000 to April 2010. The new figure is fairer.)

In the period 22 Oct 2012 to 30 Sept 2013 (a period of 49 weeks), 527,574 individuals received a sanction. The highest published number for any 52 week period was 528,700 in the financial year 2010/11 (FoI request 2012-5156, 14th January 2013). This indicates that the number of individuals sanctioned within any 12-month period will also have reached its highest level since the beginning of JSA.

In the year to 30 September 2013 there were 22,840 sanctions imposed on ESA claimants in the Work Related Activity Group. This is the highest for any 12-month period since sanctions were introduced for ESA WRAG claimants in October 2008.

The rate of sanctions for ESA WRAG claimants is much lower than for JSA claimants but is rising and has almost reached 0.5% per month (Figure 3).

  • Appeals: There has been a sensational increase in the success rate of claimants at Tribunal– but only one in 50 claimants appeals
  • More JSA claimants given three-year sanctions
  • Failure to participate in training/employment schemes and not ‘actively seeking work’ are now the main reasons for JSA sanctions

Reasons for ESA sanctions

  • The Work Programme: Twice as many sanctions as job outcomes
  • Cancelled referrals from Work Programme contractors indicate defective paperwork on a big scale

Download full briefing:

“Providing a telephone number to the jobcentre or Work Programme Provider…failure to do so is not sanctionable”

“Providing a telephone number to the jobcentre or Work Programme Provider is not mandatory.  Therefore failure to do so is not sanctionable. ”

Claiming Benefits: Without an email address or telephone number? Sanctions? Extensive DWP opinions