Letters: John Smithee, April 18, 2017

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Jobcentres should give warnings to claimants who are late or miss their appointments rather than stop their benefit payments, according to a new report from a committee of MPs.

The public accounts committee (PAC) called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to trial a system that cautions claimants rather than automatically docking benefits for four weeks at a time — costing the claimant about £300.

The DWP imposed a staggering 400,000 sanctions on benefit claimants in 2015, the PAC’s report said.

Homelessness charity Crisis and Citizens Advice both told the PAC that sanctions have an adverse effect on vulnerable claimants as they face debt, rent arrears and losing their home if they lost their benefits or had them cut.

A third of claimants surveyed by Crisis found that their housing benefit had been stopped because of a sanction on jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, universal credit and income support.

Nearly half of claimants polled by Citizens Advice said they felt that their sanction could have been avoided if they had received a warning instead. It is an article of faith for the DWP that sanctions encourage people into work. The reality is far more complex and the consequences severe.

John Smithee, Wisbech