As the Government announces its Autumn budget, we examine what the changes mean for people in the welfare system and those at risk of having their benefit payments sanctioned.

Caroline Selman, Research Fellow in welfare rights, said:

“Whilst the decision to uprate means-tested benefits in line with September’s inflation figure of 10.1% is welcome, the move does not address a crucial structural problem. Nearly half of those who receive Universal Credit will still have deductions or sanctions taken from their payments and will have to survive on far below the bare minimum they need.  

“Figures from the DWP out this week show that in July 2022, 42,000 sanctions were issued, while data from earlier this month showed that 45% of Universal Credit claimants had money deducted from their payments, much of which relates to government driven debt. This leaves more than 2 million people unable to afford basic necessities, and at risk of a spiral of debt.

“The harm and suffering caused by this level of poverty is plainly visible.

“Along with many organisations who represent disabled people and benefit claimants, PLP has called for further action to ensure that deductions are only made when they can be shown to be affordable.

“The Government also announced today that an additional 600,000  people are to work with a coach to increase their hours and earnings. More detail is needed on this – if the plan hinges on a greater threat of sanctions, then that would be a retrograde step which goes against what the evidence on sanctions tells us.’

“A review of the entire sanctions regime is urgently needed. Not only does the evidence show that they are harmful and ineffective , the high number that are overturned on appeal suggests many are handed out incorrectly and unlawfully. Yet, as PLP’s research shows, the system for challenging unlawful sanctions decisions is not fair or effective. When people try to challenge an incorrect sanction they find a complex system, lacking in clear timelines and full of hidden language that feels quick to assume they are ‘guilty’. 

While the Government continues to take the current approach, people caught up in that system should – at absolute minimum – feel they are being treated fairly and with respect.”

Read ‘Benefit Sanctions: a presumption of guilt‘ to find out more about why the system needs an urgent overhaul