Disability news service blog post, by John Pring, 1 Dec 2016: Spending watchdog calls for ‘wide-ranging’ review of benefit sanctions regime 

The government has been heavily-criticised by the public spending watchdog for failing to investigate how its own sanctions regime affects disabled people and other claimants of out-of-work benefits.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report says the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to track the costs and benefits of sanctions, including financial hardship, the impact on claimants’ mental health, and higher public spending in other areas, such as council-funded support.

And it calls on DWP to conduct a “wide-ranging review” of its regime, which has led to 400,000 sanctions being applied in 2015 across four benefits: jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA), universal credit and income support.

DWP has previously rejected calls for a wider review, and NAO says it has also “resisted working with academic researchers and third-party organisations to explore the effect of sanctions”.

DWP has even told Work Programme providers not to cooperate with government-funded research looking at the role and impact of sanctions.

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