Many people are being sanctioned and their benefits being stopped by JCP as they are unable to cope with the demands put on them. I was wondering if there is a legal way to challenge 1st stage sanction? ( 2 weeks)
Can you provide a bit more information on the nature of the letters being sent out to claimants in this stage in the sanction process by Jobcentre. Any ideas on what claimants in your experience are typically being sanctioned for and is it peculiar to any particular JCP or Work Programme provider?
Here's a link to the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 which are due to come into effect this October. They list the latest regulations on the reasons why claimants can be sanctioned, JCP should NOT be following these yet; are they though I wonder? The rights of appeal will need to checked against the latest version of the Decision - Making & Appeal sections of the relevant rules relating to appealing sanctions. However, a good starting point would be if you could let know if claimants are being notified of an appeal right?
I've tracked down the guidance being issued to Work Programme providers (who will generally be first ones involved in the sanction process). You can check the guidance here and from it at chapter 6 section 32 note:
31. Sanction action can be taken by the LM DM against JSA participants so that their benefit may be reduced or not paid if, without good reason, they fail to participate in the WP.
32. JSA benefit sanctions are applied for specific periods, which may follow on from each other if a participant fails to participate in a mandated activity more than once. The sanction periods are:
• 2 weeks – first sanction (cannot be reviewed) • 4 weeks – second sanction (cannot be reviewed) • 26 weeks – third sanction (can be reviewed)
33. A participant will continue to be sanctioned if a 2 or a 4 week sanction has been applied irrespective of any re-engagement. A participant serving a 26 week sanction, may have the sanction lifted (after a minimum of 4 weeks) if:
• they fully re-engage with the sanctioned requirement at any time or • fully engage with a different requirement
Further information regarding re-engagement can be found in the Work Programme Guidance Chapter 7 – Re-engagement and reviewing a sanction.
Chapter 6 Work Programme Provider Guidance 7 V5.00 - Updated 16 July 2012
I wonder if you managed to find out more on the nature of the sanction notices and whether they are being issued by providers (seemingly with no review possible in case of first stage sanction?) Or whether notification is coming from Labour Market Decision - Maker at the DWP?
Chapter 7 of the same set of guidance clarifies the rights to appeal in so as how it is relayed to the Work provider:
Decisions, Reconsiderations and Appeals
52. Reconsiderations are a crucial part of the decision making and appeals process and are designed to put right incorrect decision at the earliest opportunity. If participant tells you they are not happy with the decision that they will be sanctioned, you should first encourage them to request a reconsideration with Jobcentre Plus.
53. In order to request a reconsideration, the participant must contact the office who sent the letter within one month of the date on the letter to request a written explanation of the decision. They should include within this request any additional evidence in support of the change of decision.
54. If the participant still believes the decision is wrong, there may have the right to appeal to an independent tribunal, the letter confirming the decision will advise if this is possible. The appeal must be in writing and within one month. Form GL24DWP is available from Jobcentre Plus offices may be used for an appeal.
55. All requests for written statements, reconsiderations or appeal must be within one month, except if there are special circumstances which meant the participant were unable to contact the office within this period. You should advise the participant of the process and the timescales and direct them to the appropriate Jobcentre Plus office.
What concerns me here is what the claimant is being told about any statutory rights of appeal and whether they are being told they have to apply for a reconsideration in the first place (mandatory reconsideration has not yet been implemented) before they can directly appeal?
Hi Nickd What worries me h is the fact that my client had no warning, he received a letter saying that his money is being stop for 2 weeks as he has not done enough to look for work. He is trying to start a business and has been attending all his appointments with business advisor from Reed; he was referred to Reed by JCP. He also attends a weekly Job club. JCP said that he did not do enough job search, they said that if he wants to have his own business, he should be up and running within 6 weeks. He is a vulnerable person with complex need. When we accompanied him to JCP the advisor said he realise my client was doing everything he can, however, they can not reverse sanction.
Yes this surprises me as well. It does appear from the information provided to the Work providers that the first stage sanction is one against which you cannot appeal. I am not sure what the exact position on this in terms of the Decision - Making & Appeal (DMA) & Claims & Payment regs because a cessation on payability should be capable of being appealed in the normal way. I am aware of the new legislation moving towards reduced rights of appeal but at this stage I am not sure it applies. I'm checking the legislation. I cannot see how it is lawful to remove the right of appeal. Consider a challenge or certainly a complaint as this cannot be right especially where your client is doing all he can to meet JSA claimant conditions. The viability of a self employed route into employment within a six week window seems highly questionable.
Given what you say Carmen about complex needs & vulnerability why is client not on ESA?
EDIT: Uncovered this link to amending regs
JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE (EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS AND ENTERPRISE SCHEME) REGULATIONS 2011
Your client's position needs to be challenged because he has entered into the spirit of all that he is meant to be doing. Vulnerability has to be considered (potentially as a hardship case). The problem with so many SI's (particularly these because they are a re-hash of what was going to be the Work Programme Regs) is they are full of flaws. Government is being lax in implementing these because they know they all have to rehashed again in line with Universal Credit related changes in legislation. It is important therefore to check back and see whether prior legislation has been amended to the effect that a right of appeal is no longer available to claimant; - it needs checking back.
In the mean time what about writing to the JCP and demanding a formal decision with a request as to how client's award had been formally revised / superseded to the effect his entitlement has been removed? Ask them in a request for reasons to specifically cite legislation and how it has been applied. Explain that client has complied and that sanction is not appropriate. Ask them to expedite their decision.
All from a government committed to less legislation?
Thank you Nicked, I am going to take your advice and challenge JCP further as I am worried that this is the next stage in sanctioning, no reason need to be given by JCP to stop people’s JSA when they feel like it. I am worried that they have a number of sanctions that they have to achieve when they don’t reach their targets (like traffic wardens). Most of the clients I see have been taken off ESA and put on JSA, I have managed to challenge a few but some are hard as I need co-operation of GPs. Very big grey area is people with addiction or recent ex addicts with depression and anxiety who find it difficult to cope with pressure. Another difficult area around JSA\ESA is people with learning difficulties . i.e clients who can not read or write being sent home to write a CV and are in danger of being sanctions if they fail the task. Which brings me to another point, can it be challenge legally using the DDA?
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Is it one which carries or is related to a decision on entitlement against which you can appeal?
If so, then you are appealing against the decision which removes the entitlement from whatever date that may be (which will be related to when the sanction was imposed) and it is from this date that you appeal for a reversal of the decision to disallow. This sets the 'backdating' period.
In the alternative if there is no right of appeal then point out why the sanction has been incorrectly imposed and query under what regulation it is that you have not been formally notified of a right to appeal. A compensatory request should also be considered along with an investigatory complaint as to precisely who incorrectly imposed the sanction.
Appeal, contest and fight back against these injustices!
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Post by advisrneedadvice on Sept 14, 2012 21:39:22 GMT 1
Thank you Nickd, sanctions are for reasons that are hard to dispute but do not justify a sanction, for example, a client did not write down the jobs he applied for so his benefit stoped However, he is on ESA, he attends careers drop-in I run at community, I think I might be able to dispute that.
I am not a in the legal profession, I am a career advisor, spending most my time appealing ESA ATOS.. however, we are wining most WCA appeals and I am going to appeal sanctions too.
There is still a right to appeal and the advice is to use it. Also consider submitting an application on hardship grounds which can run alongside the appeal. The reasonableness of the sanction (not writing down jobs applied for) must take account of the particular problems experienced by the claimant. If they have a particular difficulty with say writing then that would constitute a reasonable reason for not writing something down. Equally if a major part of their problem was depression of which a lack of motivation or inability to conduct tasks was a feature, then this could indicate the very reason why he or she is not writing things down!
The work provider or JCP (if not yet referred to a Work Programme provider) should be working with the claimant in overcoming these obstacles not condemning them for having limitations!
If the claimant can't cope with the regime it may be an indicator that a placement in the Support Group is more appropriate?
Tell me is it a feature of your work in careers advising that you are finding yourselves having to help clients with ESA appeals because it becomes evident they are not suited to the workplace? Is this being fed back to someone? - I'm interested in what your view are on this?
Post by advisrneedadvice on Sept 22, 2012 22:21:25 GMT 1
Hi Nick, apologies for the late reply, In answer to your question, yes, I am finding myself having to help people with ESA appeals (wining most which means that the WCA is not working)
Welfare 2 Work system needs to be addressed, as many claimants feel punished rather then helped. Many sanctions are unfair but there is not enough time in the day for more appeals. Stopping claimant’s benefits means more debt, risk of homelessness, poverty and referrals to food banks.
Many claimants with disabilities are very unhappy, as they want to work and not getting appropriate support from JCP advisors (most of them are not Careers advisor and are not trained to conduct Careers assessments).
With most specialist careers support projects being cut and gone, many people with disabilities find themselves very isolated and fearful. Too scared to Volunteer and attend training, as it will impact on their next WCA.
Post by advisrneedadvice on Sept 22, 2012 22:43:36 GMT 1
I think JSA sanctions will be presenting much legal challenges in the near future, I think many claimants will be sanctioned Or their benefits will be stopped for a while due to Lack of awareness and knowledge of the W2W system, lack of employability skills and lack of resources
Changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions from 22 October 2012
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 sets out the Government’s intentions for a stronger and clearer system of conditionality and sanctions. In line with the draft regulations that were set out earlier this year, we are changing the way in which Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) can be affected if claimants do not meet the conditions for receiving it.
What is changing?
The new regulations introduce a regime of fixed period sanctions, which will replace the existing sanction rules and move claimants closer to the sanction regime planned for Universal Credit in 2013. We intend to bring in the new regime from 22 October 2012.
Under the new regime:
Higher level sanctions (for example for leaving a job voluntarily) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of 13 weeks for a first failure, 26 weeks for a second failure and 156 weeks for a third and subsequent failure (within a 52 week period of their last failure).
Intermediate level sanctions of four weeks for a first failure, rising to 13 weeks for a second or subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure) may be applied following a period of disallowance for not actively seeking employment or not being available for work.
Lower level sanctions (for example for failing to attend an adviser interview) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of four weeks for the first failure, followed by 13 weeks for subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure)
More information about the sanction levels:
Changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions
What happens if a claimant’s JSA is stopped?
If the claimant’s JSA is stopped because they have failed to meet their responsibilities, they must still attend the Jobcentre for their fortnightly jobsearch review, and attend any appointments to avoid losing benefit for a longer period.
They will be entitled to a full explanation of why their benefit was stopped.
They are not automatically entitled to financial help but if they can show that they are suffering hardship, the adviser or hardship officer can explain how they can apply for a hardship payment.
How are we informing claimants?
We will give existing claimants a revised ES40 (Jobseeker’s Allowance – Your responsibilities) and a factsheet telling them about the changes from 22 October 2012.
The factsheet will explain that a change in the law means that although the conditions for receiving benefit are not changing, benefit may be stopped for up to three years if these conditions are not met.