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Citizens Advice sees 60 per cent increase in problems with JSA sanctions

15 April 2014

Citizens Advice sees 60 per cent increase in problems with JSA sanctions

The minimum four week sanction for JSA claimants risks pushing people further away from work, according to new figures released today by Citizens Advice.

The charity has seen a 60 per cent increase in the number of problems related to JSA sanctions since the minimum sanction period was increased from one week to four in October 2012.

Citizens Advice is concerned that the longer minimum sanction period—when people are left without the financial support of their benefit—is having a counterproductive effect. Claimants are distracted from job-hunting as they focus on putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head.

Since the extension of the minimum sanction in October 2012 over £7 million has been spent on JSA sanction appeal tribunals.

Citizens Advice has found that many JSA claimants are already struggling to make ends meet. From October to December last year:

  • 1 in 4 Citizens Advice clients with a JSA sanction problem had dependent children
  • 1 in 4 identified as being disabled of suffering from a long term health condition
  • 1 in 6 also had a debt problem
  • 1 in 10 had issues with rent arrears or threat or reality of homelessness

The extra pressure and financial burden caused by sanctions risks parents struggling to put food on the table, pushing people further into debt and impacting upon their health. Of the 100,000 food bank vouchers issued by Citizens Advice Bureaux last year, 16 per cent were needed because of benefit sanctions.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“The minimum four week sanction is setting people up to fail and creating a barrier which can stop them from looking for work. Four weeks is a long time to go without money to get by and people are struggling to make ends meet.

“The success rate of sanction appeals reveals a culture of ‘sanction first and ask questions later’. This is not only ineffective and a huge waste of money but also has a devastating effect on thousands of people’s lives.

“People need a system that can take into account their situation, set suitable work search requirements and where necessary apply sanctions at a level that won’t limit their chances of employment.  Whilst it is vital that people receiving taxpayers’ support do their utmost to find work, the model needs to work and not make it harder for claimants to find a job.

“To date, Work Programme contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have successfully helped people find work. Combined with Citizens Advice’s latest figures this paints the strongest picture yet that the system is not working as it should.”

One Citizens Advice client in Surrey had his JSA sanctioned and was forced to rely on his local church for food parcels. Having his benefits suspended limited his chances of getting a job, as it meant he could not afford the bus fare to get to job interviews in town.  

Citizens Advice is calling on the Government to move to the more responsive sanctions model being implemented as part of Universal Credit sooner rather than later.

Under this new model sanctions will be more focused on getting claimants back on track with their job-hunt rather than the often more punitive approach of the current system. Their benefit would then be cut for a period of time that the Jobcentre Plus worker deems proportionate—so money could be stopped for as little as a week.

This would also avoid having two very different sanction systems running concurrently over a long period of time as Universal Credit is rolled out.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.