DWP to cut maximum penalties for benefit claimants who fail to meet conditions

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has said she is cutting the maximum financial sanctions for benefit claimants in a drive to ensure the system is “fair and compassionate” for all.

In a speech in London, Ms Rudd (pictured) said the maximum penalty for claimants who fail to meet conditions – such as showing they are looking for work – would be cut from three years to six months.

She said the Department for Work and Pensions would undertake additional studies to see if further improvements could be made to the system.

“I want to ensure that the penalties for not meeting these conditions are proportionate, particularly for the most vulnerable,” she said in her address to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

“I will end financial sanctions for welfare claimants that last for three years. Such sanctions were rarely used but I believe they were counterproductive and ultimately undermined our goal of supporting people into work.

“In the future, the longest length of sanctions will be six months. I am undertaking an evaluation of the effectiveness of Universal Credit sanctions to see whether other improvements can be made.”

Ms Rudd, seen as a potential future Tory leadership contender, acknowledged her changes were driven by her moderate, One Nation Toryism.

“I feel very strongly about making sure that the policies of this department are fair, compassionate and that they work for everybody. I cannot see the need for sanctions over six months,” she said.

“I want to make sure that the system, the process, that I oversee is always compassionate and fair. I never want to forget that we as a department work with people who need our help.”

Ms Rudd sidestepped questions about her leadership ambitions, saying: “I feel incredibly fortunate to be in this role. There is a really important job to do. I am committed to the DWP.”

However she stressed the Conservatives should be committed to ensuring that people, whatever their background, were able to get on in the workplace.

“As Conservatives, we want every person, no matter their background, to progress in the workplace and outperform what society says they should be able to do,” she said.

“These values are at the heart of what I will do at the DWP.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said Labour had long been pressing for the Government to scrap its “punitive” sanctions regime.

“Six months is still a very long time to leave someone without any income at all. It is not just the individual who is affected, but their family too,” she said.

“There is clear evidence that sanctions and excessive conditionality do not help people into sustained employment. They also cause stress and anxiety for many and are one of the key reasons that people ask for help at food banks.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.