Agenda item

Scrutiny Review - Department for Work and Pensions Sanctions

-           Chief Executive to report.


Councillor Whelbourn, Chairman of the Review Group, introduced the report which set out the findings and recommendations of the scrutiny review of the Department for Work and Pensions Sanctions by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board which was requested by the Leader in his capacity as Chair of the Welfare Reform Steering Group.


The areas of focus for the review were as follows:-


o      Understanding the step-by-step process for applying a sanction, including how this is communicated to claimants.

o      The relationship between JCP and Work Programme (WP) providers and the role of WP providers in making sanctions referrals.

o      Examining local statistics on the application of sanctions, including – if possible – the figures for different claimant groups and comparisons with other areas.

o      The impact of sanctions on particular groups (e.g. lone parents, carers, disabled people, homeless people, those with mental health problems).

o      The extent to which local partnership working is mitigating any possible deficiencies or inflexibilities in the system and how relationships can be strengthened.

o      The potential impact of further changes to the system, including the claimant commitment and ongoing expansion of conditionality (e.g. in work conditionality linked to the introduction of  universal credit).

o      Ability of the council’s fund for change scheme to support sanctioned claimants.


The key findings of the review were grouped under four headings; Communication, Flexibility and Discretion, Vulnerable Claimants and Local Working Protocol. There was one main recommendation of the review, directed to the partners on the Welfare Reform Steering Group, which was to establish a local working protocol with the aim of ensuring complete fairness in the process of implementing sanctions in Rotherham.  In implementing this recommendation they were also requested to consider:-


·                Inclusion of advice agencies

·                How to include Work Programme providers

·                Clear and consistent communication mechanisms

·                Clear and consistent standards of referral within the partnership

·                Rotherham MBC to review its eligibility criteria for the Fund for Change

·                DWP partners to investigate the possibility of having the mandatory reconsideration process carried out locally instead of via the centre in Hanley.


Some information had also been received after the report had been submitted from Job Centre Plus relating to the Work Programme, on Page 9 “A brand new claim would stay with Job Centre Plus for 39 weeks”.  This would only apply for 18 to 24 year olds, it was 52 weeks for those aged 25 plus and voluntary access to the Work Programme was available from day one of a new claim for certain disadvantaged claimants i.e. Homeless, Ex-Armed Forces, Drug/Alcohol, Health Conditions  etc. so the above may not apply in all cases.


It was also suggested that the issues highlighted within the report be discussed with the Rotherham Members of Parliament at the earliest opportunity.


Resolved:-  (1)  That all those involved in the Scrutiny Review be thanked for their input.


(2)  That the Scrutiny Review of the Department for Work and Pensions Sanctions and its recommendations be noted and a response be submitted within two months as outlined within the Council’s Constitution.


(3)  That the decision of Cabinet on the report, recommendations and proposed action be reported back to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board in due course.

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