Sheffield researchers call for review of ‘punitive and flawed’ benefit sanctions

People getting benefit sanctions for issues such as missing JobCentre appointments is leading to more homelessness, a new report has claimed
People getting benefit sanctions for issues such as missing JobCentre appointments is leading to more homelessness, a new report has claimed
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Sheffield researchers have said the next Government should launch an urgent review of benefit sanctions because the current system is ‘punitive and flawed’.

A new report carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University said sanctions could increase people’s risk of becoming homeless.

The research was carried out on behalf of homelessness charity Crisis.

Crisis has warned of a ‘postcode lottery’ in the use of sanctions, with differences across the country over the chances of being affected.

The charity said homeless people may be disproportionately affected by sanctions, with many facing obstacles that make it harder for them to meet conditions of the regime.

Research for Crisis by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University said sanctions could increase people’s risk of becoming homeless.

The report said there had been a ‘dramatic’ increase in the use of sanctions over the past five years.

The report’s author, Dr Kesia Reeve of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “This evidence review raises serious questions about the appropriateness, effectiveness, and consequences of benefit sanctions, particularly for homeless people.

“The evidence at present is limited, but points clearly to a system that is more punitive than it is supportive and that fails to take into account the barriers homeless people face.

“The scale and magnitude of sanctions is startling, as is the wide variation found across the country.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The Government has assured us that benefit sanctions are only for those who refuse to play by the rules, but evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime.

“Sanctions are cruel and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness - cold, hungry and utterly destitute.”