MP Debbie Abrahams has revealed that Oxford academics will report next month on what has happened to half a million jobseekers allowance (JSA) claimants who were sanctioned and subsequently disappeared from official employment statistics.
The Oxford University study led by Professor David Stuckler and Dr. Rachel Loopstra, is in the process of analysing what has happened to the 4.5 million people who have been sanctioned under the Coalition government's sanctioning regime.
Their research will be published in full later this month for full peer review. According to Abrahams:
“Since the government’s regulations came into effect in October 2012 about half of all sanction decisions have led to people on JSA having their social security payments cut for a least 4 weeks, affecting over 2 million people.
“Of those sanctioned, one in four leave JSA, and their preliminary statistical analysis is revealing that most of those who leave do so for reasons other than employment.”
The research suggests more than 500,000 Job Seekers Allowance claimants have ‘disappeared’ since the sanctions regime was toughened in October 2012.
This could mean the claimant count - one of the ways of measuring unemployment – is actually 20,000 to 30,000 higher each month than government figures.
This suggests that, in August 2014, the claimant count could have hit one million instead of being at 970,000.
Abrahams said: "Sanctions are being applied unfairly to job-seekers as well as the sick and disabled. And we shouldn't forget that most people on social security are actually in work but are struggling to make ends meet.
“I’ve always maintained that the real reason the government is doing this is to get them off the JSA claimant figures, so it looks like there are fewer people who are unemployed.
It directly contradicts the government's current claims about these people coming off JSA because they've gone into work.
“Iain Duncan Smith will try and say these statistics are unreliable but the fact is these are the DWP’s own statistics so they can’t wriggle out of it using that excuse!”
Stuckler and Loopstra, who have analysed data from 375 local authority areas have said they are ‘shocked’ by what they have found so far.
Talking about his research findings Professor Stuckler said: “The data clearly show that many people are not leaving JSA for work but appear to be being pushed off in unprecedented numbers in association with sanctions.”