Benefit Sanctions

For some time I’ve been concerned about the effect of benefit sanctions on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Before I started this blog I decided to do some more research on the benefit sanctions – it doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Benefit Sanctions have been rolled out and incrementally increased all over Europe. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has done a study on the short and long term effect of sanctions. (You can read their report here:

The Guardian have an article on the culture within Job Centres of each person having to sanction at least 3 people every week.  (

Some *examples of our experience of benefit sanctions from the clients of The Well:

1.  A Middle Eastern man had his benefits stopped for six months because while he was in the waiting room for a work experience interview his mobile phone rang.

2. An African woman had her benefits stopped for three months as she had not taken a 24 hour job at a supermarket. Her JSA contract said she only had to look for jobs of 16 hours.

3. A Kurdish man had his benefits stopped for 2 weeks as his job diary only had “asked friends, asked in shops”. He cannot speak much English, and can certainly not read and write English – so is definitely not going to be able to find jobs online or in newspapers.

We are finding that people are not being advised that they may be to apply for hardship payments – which are only available if they can prove they have no other source of income (ie family and friends). Any hardship payment is half of their benefit.

(Even while writing this, I’ve just had another email asking for advice about a non English speaking man who has been sanctioned for four weeks for not trying hard enough to get work & who has been left destitute with no money to even buy basic food.)

This is not a fair system, and those who do not speak English are at a huge disadvantage.

I’m increasingly convinced that we need to help raise the public awareness of what is happening, and I would certainly encourage people to contact their MPs to challenge, what is by its very nature, a discriminatory system.

*Nationalities changed to protect identities.



  1. nigel baxter

    i have just found out (friday 11/01/2013) i have been sanctioned for a missed appointment with the work program. i have no idea how long for as i have had no corespondance from job seekers. i have no idea what to do. when i first signed on i was given a letter stating and i quote ‘this is the minimum amount you need to live on’ so how can anyone justify stopping this money just because i made a mistake and missed one appointment. one of the staff at my local job centre told me i have to do this that and the other as they are my employer. well when i was employed i NEVER had my wages stopped for weeks because i was late or for any other reason. i guess i must be mistaken i thought this was 2013 not the dark ages. i know i will go and ask my 82 year old mother who lives in a care home for some cash and when i tell her why she will probably have another heart attack. surely this is against my basic human rights. oh and just for the record I AM A HUMAN BEING NOT A NUMBER ON A PIECE OF PAPER!!!!

  2. admin


    I’m appalled to read your story – but sadly I fear it’s very common. I don’t know about the area where you live, but here people can continue to get both HB and CTB whilst being sanctioned – you have to fill in a form which shows you have no other means of income, but they will still pay it.
    That’s the first I’ve heard that Child Tax Credit is also affected by sanctions – which if that is now the case is a very worrying development indeed.

    I hope you’ve been able to get the help you need. (Sorry for taking so long to publish your comment – I hadn’t checked the comments for a few weeks, since they are generally just spam!)

  3. Maggie Matthews

    Ps. Housing benefit, council tax benefit and child tax credit will not be paid whilst on sanction. So I liable to be evicted from our home once my landlord finds out.

  4. Maggie Matthews


    I missed my sign on appointment 30th October due to human error. It was half term so was home with my daughter and out of routine.

    As penalty I am sanctioned for 4 weeks. I appealed and was refused so today is day 16 without money. This means I can’t buy bus pass for the 3rd day running so I can’t get my daughter to school, the gas had ran out yesterday, I have 3 pounds left on emergency electric, we have a bag of pasta, a bit of rice, no meat or fish, no fresh oroduce, don’t have milk left, our house is freezing and I am in bed with my daughter with our winter coats and layers. The temperature in my room shows 8 degrees Celsius.

    I have applied for crisis loan but I am not entitled due to the sanction. I applied for and was granted hardship payment from 29th Nov but I have to sign on 12 Dec and will receive payment 17 Dec.

    The job centre advised that i contact social services who said they can only help if my daughter is taken into care. I have contacted Shelter who put me in touch with various charities. I rang them and they only offer advice. Any grant application takes 8 weeks to process. Can’t get temp housing as I have a home albeit on without heat, hot water or food.

    I don’t know what to do or where to turn next. The system is seemingly designed to make me fail in every way. My only option is to contact Social services to take my daughter into temporary foster care before she gets sick or our last bit of food runs out. I am tee total. I don’t smoke. It’s 2012 and my daughter and I hungry and cold in South London with no respite in sight. All because I confused my dates and missed one appointment.

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