Press release

Choosing a life on benefits is no longer an option

Jobseekers who repeatedly refuse to play by the rules face losing benefits for three years under tough new rules introduced today.‪

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Jobseekers who repeatedly refuse to play by the rules face losing benefits for three years under tough new rules introduced today.‪

The new rules send a clear message that people receiving benefits have a responsibility to actively seek work in exchange for receiving Jobseekers Allowance.

Jobseekers who are ready to work hard and want to get on in life will get all the support they need through Jobcentre Plus and schemes such as the Work Programme, which offers tailored support to the long-term unemployed, and the Youth Contract, which will create nearly 500,000 opportunities for young people through work experience, apprenticeships and wage incentives for businesses.

But some people refuse to play by the rules and last year alone jobcentre advisors were forced to sanction 495,000 claimants, including 72,000 who refused an offer of employment. ‪ Currently, those who fail to live up to their responsibilities can lose JSA for up to 3 months. From today that will increase to up to three years for repeat offenders who refuse to accept jobs or voluntarily leave a job without good reason.‪

Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said:‪

Choosing a life on benefits when you’re able to work is not an option.

These rules send out a clear message to jobseekers. We will offer them the support they need to find work, but in return for receiving benefits they have responsibilities too. People cannot expect to keep their benefits if they do not hold up their end of the bargain.

Currently, jobseekers who break the most important rules, such as refusing to accept a reasonable job offer, can be subject to sanctions for between one week and 6 months. But the wide range means that some claimants do not have a clear understanding of the consequences of refusing to comply with the rules.

The new sanctions regime introduced today will be clearer and more robust, and substantially aligns the current system with the rules which will be in force when Universal Credit is introduced.

There will be 3 levels of sanctions, ranging from four weeks for a minor offence to three years for serious repeat offenders. The new regime is tougher but fairer, and the rules will be clearly explained to all claimants from day one so that they are in no doubt that if they do not comply they will not get their benefit.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 were laid on 9 July and come into force on Monday October 22, 2012.
  2. Under the new regime there are three levels of sanctions: low, intermediate, and high.  Low level: for failures to undertake specific action as required by a Jobcentre Plus adviser. The sanction for such failures will be one month for a first and 3 months for second and subsequent failures.‪ Intermediate level: for failures to actively seek and be available for work. This leads to disentitlement; if the individual makes a new claim then no benefit is payable for up to one month for a first such failure, and 3 months for second and subsequent failures.‪ Highest level: for failures to comply with the most important job seeking requirements (such as refusing to accept a reasonable job offer, or leaving employment voluntarily without good reason). Currently claimants face a sanction of anywhere between 1 week and 6 months. The revised sanctions will be for a fixed period that will increase for those who have a history of failing to meet their requirements: 3 months for a first failure, rising to 6 months for a second failure (within a year of the previous failure), and 3 years for a third sanction. 
  3. The early roll out of Universal Credit will begin in April 2013 in the Manchester and Cheshire regions. Universal Credit will roll out nationally from October 2013.

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Updates to this page

Published 22 October 2012