Four Greater Manchester districts feature in the UK’s top 20 job seeker sanction hot-spots – making it one of the most heavily penalised regions in the country.
Statistics from homeless charity Crisis revealed that more than one in 10 claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) are sanctioned in the Manchester, Tameside, Salford and Oldham areas.
The extent of the problem has been sweeping the country for the past few years, with the number of JSA sanctions almost tripling since the millennium.
The report worryingly revealed that the rise in sanctions may increase the risk of homelessness – effectively putting lives in danger.
A Crisis spokesperson said: “A small body of evidence is emerging to suggest that, as well as exacerbating the problems homeless people face, sanctions may increase the risk of homelessness.
“Principally this is because claimants cut back on housing costs (rent, board, service charges) or fail to reclaim Housing Benefit when a sanction is imposed, accruing arrears and risking eviction.
“This must be placed within the context of the raft of other reforms recently or currently being implemented that are increasing housing insecurity and reducing incomes, particularly for the poorest people and communities.”
The national sanction rate has increased dramatically over the past five years, following the arrival of the coalition government in 2010.
The rate has risen from an average of 2.5 sanctions enforced per 100 claimants per month in 2001, to seven per 100 claimants in 2014.
Since the Welfare Reform Act received royal assent in March 2012, claimants can also now have their benefit withheld for up to three years if they fail to meet strict requirements.
Oldham MP Deborah Abrahams revealed her disgust at the government last year, accusing them of contributing to the deaths of vulnerable people by purposely sanctioning benefit claimants in order to improve employment figures.
Crisis also revealed that there may be a ‘critical gap’ in the data as the statistics do not include details of claimants’ housing circumstances, meaning the numbers of homeless people being sanctioned are not available.
Out of the four Greater Manchester districts featuring in the top 20 sanction hot-spots, Tameside fared the worst with a rate of 11.2 sanctions being made per 100 claimants for the year ending in March 2014 – making it the seventh most penalised area of the country.
The districts of Salford, Oldham and Manchester followed with rates of 10.7, 10.6 and 10.2 sanctions per 100 claimants respectively.
The most common reason for a sanction at present is failing to actively seek work, with around one in three sanctions imposed for this reason.
Over the past 13 years, an astonishing 6.8million sanctions have been applied to JSA claimants.
Image courtesy of Andrew Writer, with thanks.