From 3 December 2012 new sanctions for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) who either fail to take part in work-focused interviews or fail to undertake work-related activity are being introduced. As well as subjecting claimants to two separate sanction periods, 100% of the personal allowance for a single claimant will be withdrawn. The work-related activity component will not be affected during a sanction period.

The changes only apply to claimants who fail to take part in work-focused interviews or fail to take part in work-related activity on or after 3 December 2012. They provide for sanctions to be applied firstly for an open ended period, that is, until the compliance conditions are satisfied;​ and then secondly, for a short fixed period. The length of the fixed period will vary dependent on a claimant’​s previous history of non-compliance. If a claimant complies within a short period of time only a fixed sanction will apply. For claimants who are no longer required to satisfy the relevant condition, the sanction is stopped.

Hardship payments may be available where a claimant meets the conditions of entitlement to income-related ESA and where hardship can be evidenced. A number of factors are expected to be taken into account when deciding hardship. These include whether a claimant’​s partner or other family member satisfies the requirements for a disability premium, or where child tax credit (CTC) is being paid for a disabled child or young person. Other factors include available resources and whether or not there is ‘​substantial risk’​ to the household. If a hardship payment is agreed it will only be 60% of the personal allowance for a single claimant.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to write to all ESA claimants in the WRAG prior to the changes commencing. A helpline will be available for claimants from 15 November 2012.

Details of the helpline and further information can be found in Touchbase

The Employment and Support Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 can be found here


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