To place this figure in context, that is almost 50 times as many sanctions handed out to sick and disabled people as were applied to the young people’s Work Experience scheme which recently hit the headlines. In total 8,510 individuals were sanctioned. The higher figure reflects the fact that some people were sanctioned more than once.
Equally shocking is that around 45% of sanctions were handed out to people with mental health or behavioural conditions. Around 30% of ESA/WRAG claimants suffer from a mental health condition, meaning they are around 50% more likely to be sanctioned than people with physical health problems or disabilities alone.
Up until June last year sanctions were applied to those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) who were required to attend a series of Work Focussed Interviews. If they didn’t turn up a sanction would be applied. In effect this is a large fine of on average almost £200 just for missing a meeting with the DWP. This can be doubled if the claimants repeatedly fails to attend.
ESA claimants on the WRAG group are now being referred onto Work Programme, where they can be mandated to carry out almost any Work-related activity the private sector and charity providers can dream up. The figures for how many of last year’s sanctions were due to failing to attend Work Related Activity on the Work Programme are not yet available.
What is certain is that the number of sanctions is likely to soar as ever stricter conditionality is attached to ESA. What is also certain is that some of those sanctioned will have been referred to the DWP for Compliance Breaches by charities, such as the members of Disability Works. This means a claimant has failed to attend or complete mandated activity on the Work Programme. The charities are contractually obliged to report this to the DWP who will process a sanction. No amount of spin from these charities that it’s not their fault, or that the DWP make them do it, can alter the facts. Sick and disabled people are having benefits sanctioned and being plunged into poverty directly because of the money making exploits of charities like MIND, Scope, Mencap, St Mungos and the Salvation Army.
This full details of last years sanctions can be downloaded at: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/esa_sanc/esa_sanc_feb12.pdf
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