On Wednesday 7th January, the Work and Pensions Select Committee, of which I am a member held our first oral evidence session for the benefits sanctions inquiry. This is the inquiry that Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, didn’t want to happen, and an inquiry that I have been arguing is essential for over a year now.
Matthew Oakley conducted an independent review of JSA sanctions in relation to mandatory back to work schemes (i.e. principally sanctions affecting JSA claimants participating in the Work Programme).
The Oakley Review was limited; but the Select Committee’s inquiry is broader. It considers ESA sanctions, including whether the current ESA regime is appropriate and proportionate for jobseekers with ill health and disabilities. It also considers whether the JSA and ESA regimes are achieving their policy intentions; the wider impacts on claimants; and possible alternatives.
The first session heard evidence from Matthew Oakley, as well as representatives from the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, Disability Rights UK, Employment Related Services Association, Mind, Citizens Advice Scotland, Welfare Conditionality project, Methodist Action North West, The Trussell Trust and Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow