Statistics published this week (16 August) by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal an acceleration in Universal Credit sanctions, despite significant evidence of their harm.

The figures echo recent PLP research, ‘Benefit Sanctions: A Presumption of Guilt’, that Universal Credit (UC) sanction rates are continuing to increase above pre-pandemic levels, with DWP stats finding a 160% increase in sanctions compared to the pre-pandemic peak in July 2019. These figures are especially problematic given the current cost of living crisis and evidence that the mechanisms for challenging sanctions do not work effectively.

Further concerning figures include:

  • The continuing increase of UC sanction rates to above pre-pandemic levels – from 2.51% prior to 30 March 2020 to 5.93% in May 2022. This is also an increase since the last data release. 
  • A peak of 59,000 UC sanctions reached in March 2022, which is the highest number since the current data set began.
  • That failure to attend a Work-Focussed Interview continues to account for the vast majority of sanctions (98.9%)

Caroline Selman, PLP Research Fellow said:

“These figures show that despite the current cost of living crisis, the DWP is ramping up the use of sanctions.

“The Government has failed to produce meaningful evidence that sanctions work, and has refused to publish key research and data that is held by the DWP.

“Meanwhile there is extensive evidence of their significant harm, and as Public Law Project’s research shows, the safeguards against incorrect sanctions being imposed do not work properly.

“Government needs to take urgent action to improve access to justice for sanctioned claimants and to move from a punitive, ineffectual system to one based on support and respect.”

Find out more about how the increase in benefit sanctions reveals a system that isn’t working, and how we can build a fairer process that protects individuals: