The rules for Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) sanctions have been changed from 3rd December 2012. Sanctions can be applied only to those who are in the work related activity group. They do not apply during the initial 13 week assessment period and do not apply if you are placed in the support group.
People who are placed in the work related activity group are expected to attend and participate in work focused interviews and to carry out work related activities. If you are adversely affected by the work related activity you are required to undertake it is suggested that you keep a written record of this. You could use this as evidence to request a reconsideration of your entitlement to the support group or alternatively to back up any application for good cause in the event of a sanction being imposed.
You can be sanctioned if you fail to take part in a work focused interview or fail to comply with a work related activity direction. The sanction does not apply if you have “good cause”. More information about good cause can be found in our post Have you had your benefit sanctioned.
How much is this sanction?
Employment & Support Allowance will be reduced by 100% of the prescribed amount for a single claimant which is £73.10. Your Employment & Support Allowance will not be reduced below 10p per week.
How long does this sanction last?
The sanction will end when the interview is attended or work related activity is undertaken although the sanction runs on for a short further period after the compliance.
This further period is:
- 1 week for the first failure
- 2 weeks for the second failure in the last 52 weeks
- 4 weeks for any subsequent failures within the last 52 weeks
What to do if you are sanctioned
If you are sanctioned it is important that the decision is challenged. Most challenges of sanction decisions when assisted by advice agencies are successful.
Hardship payments can be paid to people who are considered to be vulnerable and do not have enough money to live on as a result of their sanction. More information about hardship payments is available in our post Have you had your benefit sanctioned
Safeguards to prevent the misapplication of sanctions
The Department for Work & Pensions have said they will issue claimants with reminders before work focussed interviews and will consider whether attendance can be waived or deferred. Home visits can be offered.
They should consider whether you have “good cause” before imposing a sanction . They should try to contact people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities or other conditions affecting their ability to communicate or understand before considering a sanction. They may also contact a carer or health care professional in this situation. If they fail to follow these guidelines this would increase your chances of successfully challenging a decision.