Independent Review of Sanctions

21 November 2013


The Government has appointed Matthew Oakley to conduct an Independent Review of sanctions in relation to Back to Work Schemes such as Mandatory Work Activity, Skills Conditionality and the Work Programme.

Contributions have been invited from staff dealing with this type of work, claimants and external/partner organisations to

The review focuses on:

  • To what extent do JSA claimants understand that when they are referred to a 'back-to-work' scheme (such as the Work Programme) their benefit may be sanctioned if they don't take part?
  • To what extent does a claimant’s failure to meet their conditions arise from them not having a sufficient understanding of what is expected? Are there ways in which this could be made clearer to them?
  • Do sanctioned claimants understand why they have been sanctioned, and if not are there ways in which this could be made clearer to them?
  • Do sanctioned claimants feel informed throughout the sanctions process, and if not how could their awareness be improved?
  • To what extent are sanctioned claimants aware of the help available to them from Jobcentre Plus? For instance are they aware of how to appeal a decision or how to seek help through hardship payments? Are there ways in which this could be made clearer to them?

PCS Participation

The Group Executive Committee (GEC) will be submitting a response to the review. Although members can send individuals views in, we ask Branches and members to e-mail with their contributions by 10th December to form part of the union’s collective response.

The GEC believes the review is a good opportunity for the union to expose:

  • The pressure members are under to refer and impose sanctions
  • Evidence of continuing management targets or 'expectations' on sanctions
  • The management tactics used to pressurise members into imposing sanctions
  • The social consequences of sanctions on JSA customers
  • The impact on our members having to operate the sanctioning regime

The recent publication of sanctions data shows that there have been 0.58 million sanctions from October 2012 to June 2013. There has been an average of 69,000 referrals a month which is an increase of 75%, and an overall increase of 137% in the last 10 years. PCS believes it is no coincidence that the use of foodbanks has tripled in the last year. The impact of sanctioning is devastating for claimants and their families, and makes jobcentres an increasingly confrontational and dangerous place to work.


It is therefore very important that members use this opportunity to feed in their views to this review.

The GEC has provided updates to Branches and members on sanctioning and conditionality issues in the following circulars:

DWP/BB/129/13, DWP/BB/116/13, DWP/BB/044/13, DWP/BB/137/12, DWP/BB/138/12, DWP/BB/131/12, DWP/BB/076/12.

Along with challenging the employer using employee relations routes, and through gathering evidence of ‘perverse’ behaviour and performance improvement plans relating to sanction referrals, the GEC is also stepping up our campaigning work to oppose the sanctioning regime.


Each Regional Committee appoints a member to the Work Services Advisory Committee where these matters are discussed and members are given further updates to relay to branches.

Further updates will be provided when available, feedback is welcomed through local or branches PCS representatives or to

  150 Independent Review of Sanctions 


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