UN condemns UK benefit sanctions regime

Our friend and colleague, Dr David Webster, writes:

“I thought you would want to know about this important report from the United Nations, adopted on 24 June, which specifically condemns the current operation of the UK’s benefit sanctions regime. Below I have extracted the section on social security, with the comments on sanctions shown in bold. If Theresa May means what she says, perhaps she will ensure that it will be given more attention than the previous calls for a comprehensive review of sanctions have been.”

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/GBR/CO/6
– Advance unedited version, 24 June 2016

Social security
40. The Committee is deeply concerned about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits, introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act of 2016, such as the reduction of the household benefit cap, the removal of the spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax), the four year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. The Committee is particularly concerned about the adverse impact of these changes and cuts on the enjoyment of the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children. The Committee also is concerned about the extent to which the State party has made use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by the use of sanctions (International Covenant, art. 9 and 11).
41. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Review the entitlement conditions and reverse the cuts in social security benefits introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016;
(b) Restore the link between the rates of state benefits and the costs of living and guarantee that all social benefits provide a level of benefits sufficient to ensure an adequate standard of living, including access to health care, adequate housing and food;
(c) Review the use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and ensure that they are used proportionately and are subject to prompt and independent dispute resolution mechanisms; and
(d) Provide in its next report, disaggregated data on the impact of the reforms to social security on women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children.
42. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its General Comment N°19 (2007) on the right to social security.

Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Urban Studies
School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Glasgow

E mail: david.webster@glasgow.ac.uk

http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/davidwebster/

NAO sanctions study

Our colleague, Dr David Webster (University of Glasgow) has alerted us to the little known fact that the National Audit Office (NAO) is currently carrying out a study of the DWP’s benefit sanctions regime.  The terms of reference are at https://www.nao.org.uk/work-in-progress/benefit-sanctions/.

The study will run until the autumn so there is time to send in relevant information and insights to the inquiry team.

The audit manager is Colin Ross and his email address is Colin.ROSS@nao.gsi.gov.uk.  There is also a contact form on the NAO webpage.