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The National Audit Office has strongly criticised the DWP for its failure to carry out any research on whether sanctions work, in spite of imposing them on a quarter of all Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants. The report, released this week, also highlights huge variations in the number of sanctions in different months, for which the DWP can offer no explanation.

Referrals for sanctions by Jobcentres rose to a huge 11% of all claimants in March 2011 but fell to 3% of all claimants in December 2015 The NAO says that these variations cannot be explained by changes in claimant behaviour and must involve directions made by DWP management.

The NAO also found big variations in how harshly different private sector providers treat claimants. Some providers refer more than twice as many claimants for sanctions as other providers in the same area working with similar types of claimants.

According to the NAO the DWP has all the data it needs to discover what actual impact sanctions have on claimants’ behaviour but has refused to do the research.

The DWP has also failed to assess the wider costs of sanctions, including financial hardship and depression, which may result in higher public spending by local authorities to support the victims of sanctions.

You can download the full NAO report from this page.

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