Sunderland benefits claimants 'more likely' to have cash cut

Benefit claimants in Sunderland are more likely to be sanctioned than people in many other parts of the country, according to new figures.
Benefits sanctions figures.Benefits sanctions figures.
Benefits sanctions figures.

Home Office data shows that one in 20 Universal Credit claimants searching for work in the area have had their benefits stopped or cut – and that job centres in the North East have among the highest sanction rates - 9.2%.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says the system is a "postcode lottery" and should be changed.

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The figures show 7,166 people receiving Universal Credit in Sunderland were deemed to be 'looking for work' as of November and 578 (8.1%) of them had been sanctioned – mostly due to them missing Jobcentre appointments.

Nationally, around 100,000 people have had their Universal Credit payments cut – one in 13.

Sanction rates vary significantly between local areas – ranging from 2.9% in Norfolk to 13% on Merseyside.

The IPPR report follows Chancellor Jeremy Hunt revealing in last week’s Budget that sanctions aimed at getting people on Universal Credit into work are to be “applied more rigorously to those who fail to meet work-search requirements or choose not to take up a reasonable job offer."

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IPPR economist Henry Parkes said: "Sanction rates are climbing rapidly, and it seems your chances of being sanctioned are largely down to the temperament of your local job centre.

"To press ahead with even tougher sanctions when the existing system is already something of a postcode lottery would be both foolish and unfair."

He added: "We already know that sanctions can push people into destitution, so as the cost-of-living crisis continues it is urgent that the Government pauses, rather than expands, its sanctions regime while it investigates what’s driving the rise and variation in sanction rates.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Our priority is to help people find and move into work and the latest figures show an overwhelming amount - 97.6% - of sanctions are applied simply due to claimants failing to attend mandatory appointments, not for failing to undertake work search requirements.”

They added: “Sanctions can often quickly be resolved by the claimant re-engaging with the Jobcentre and attending the next appointment.”