The latest statistics released by the DWP this month show that 541,000 universal credit (UC) claimants were sanctioned in the year to January 2023. The overwhelming majority of these, 530,000, were sanctioned for failing to attend or failing to participate in a mandatory interview.
The figures represent a very small fall from the peak sanction rate, but the number of claimants sanctioned is still more than double what it was pre-pandemic.
In January 2020 18,462 claimants were sanctioned.
In January 2023, the figure was 44,888.
The number of sanctions hovered around the 45,000 mark for all of 2022, with the exception of December when it fell to 34,863 and March, when a record 58,525 claimants were sanctioned
With the DWP planning to give work coaches the power to decide who is capable of work, these figures are a reminder of the vast power such unqualified staff will wield.
First deciding whether a claimant is able to take part in work-related activities and then having the power to recommend a sanction if the claimant fails to attend a meeting or does not participate as fully as the work coach thinks is appropriate.
Claimants can try to show good cause for not attending a meeting or not being able to participate in it properly, including issues with their health.
But if the work coach is sceptical about the effects of their health condition in the first place , then the likelihood of them recommending to a decision maker that no sanction should be applied seems slim.
A sanction decision can be appealed, and the majority of appeals are successful, but the process is a long one and the sanction is likely to have had severely damaging effects by the time any hearing takes place.