Over one in 20 claimants have Universal Credit cut in Bedford

Think-tank says it can push people into destitution
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More than one in 20 Universal Credit claimants searching for work have been sanctioned in Bedford, new research shows.

The figures come as a think-tank calls on the Government to pause benefit sanctions until inflation is brought under control.

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Evidence suggests people are most often having their Universal Credit payments cut due to missing Jobcentre appointmentsEvidence suggests people are most often having their Universal Credit payments cut due to missing Jobcentre appointments
Evidence suggests people are most often having their Universal Credit payments cut due to missing Jobcentre appointments
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Analysis of Home Office data by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a think-tank, shows 3,924 people receiving Universal Credit in Bedford were deemed to be 'looking for work' as of November – 298 (7.6%) of which had been sanctioned (cut or withdrawn).

Evidence suggests people are most often sanctioned due to missing Job Centre appointments.

Across the country, around 100,000 people have had their Universal Credit payments cut.

For those classed as searching for work, more than one in 13 had been sanctioned – double the rate before the pandemic.

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Henry Parkes, senior economist at the IPPR, said: “Sanction rates are climbing rapidly, and it seems your chances of being sanctioned are largely down to the temperament of your local Job Centre.

"We already know that sanctions can push people into destitution, so as the cost-of-living crisis continues it is urgent that the government pauses, rather than expands, its sanctions regime while it investigates what’s driving the rise and variation in sanction rates.”

The IPPR want benefit sanctions halted during the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Parkes added to press ahead with tougher sanctions “would be both foolish and unfair”.

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The report says there is not enough clarity on why jobseekers on Universal Credit are having their benefits cut, or for the significant regional differences.

In the spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the sanctions regime is to be "strengthened", particularly for those failing to look for work.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Our priority is to help people find and move into work and the latest figures show an overwhelming amount – 97.6% – of sanctions are applied simply due to claimants failing to attend mandatory appointments, not for failing to undertake work search requirements.”

“Sanctions can often quickly be resolved by the claimant re-engaging with the Jobcentre and attending the next appointment,” they added.