Sickness benefit claimants with a mental health condition who have been forced to attend the Work Programme should not have their benefits sanctioned without a face to face meeting first the DWP have finally admitted.
This important clarification, which could mean many people have been wrongly sanctioned, was finally published in an amendment to the Work Programme Provider Guidance. This is the rule book that companies running the Work Programme must follow and last week a new chapter was added detailing the procedures for safeguarding so-called vulnerable claimants.
According to the guidance, claimants of the main sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance only, who have “mental health conditions or learning disabilities or conditions affecting communication/cognition” must not be referred for a sanction without safeguarding activity being carried out. This means a home visit if necessary to establish a face to face conversation to ensure that the participant understands the reason they have been sanctioned. If this face to face contact does not happen, or if the Work Programme provider believes the claimant did not understand the requirement to carry out mandated activity, then a sanction referral must not take place.
These rules, which also apply to Jobcentre busy-bodies hoping to sanction sick and disabled people’s benefits, are not new. However they were previously only published in internal Jobcentre documents and only came to light due to a Freedom of Information request. It is likely that this is the first time many Work Programme providers have even heard of them. Anecdotal evidence has repeatedly warned of people only finding out they have been sanctioned when they check their bank balances and find out they don’t have any money. The number of sickness and disability claimants who have had their benefits sanctioned is soaring, with almost 125,000 sanctions applied since new rules came into place. Some of those sanctions should not have been applied. How many is anybody’s guess.
Whilst these safeguarding rules will mean it is now harder for Work Programme companies to sanction people’s benefits, many claimants will not relish the prospect of some A4e dickhead turning up at their front door to interrogate them about why they didn’t attend workfare. The best piece of advice? Never answer the fucking door to any cunt with a clipboard.
You can download the safeguarding rules at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/427708/wp-pg-chap-4b-v1.pdf
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