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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/benefit-sanction-statistics-publication-strategy/benefit-sanction-statistics-publication-strategy
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) publishes official statistics about the number of benefit sanctions and this document explains our strategy to improve these statistics.
Failure to meet one or more conditions of a benefit claim without good reason could lead to payments being stopped or reduced for a period of time. This is known as a benefit sanction.
There is a lot of interest in the number of benefit sanctions applied and the number of people to whom they are applied.
From November 2017, we publish sanction statistics covering the following benefits as part of the benefit sanctions statistics:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support (IS)
- Universal Credit
Before November 2017, sanctions statistics were published as part of the quarterly statistical summaries.
Universal Credit sanction statistics
Universal Credit sanction statistics are included as part of the benefit sanctions statistics. These statistics continue to be developed and expanded.
Universal Credit full service delivers Universal Credit to a wider range of claimant types and it is anticipated that it will be included in all statistics at a later date.
Figures relating to sanction durations and an experimental rate are included as part of the publication. These figures include both live and full service.
From November 2017, figures relating to post-sanction benefit destinations are also published.
Information about what other statistics are published on Universal Credit is available in the Universal Credit statistics: release strategy.
JSA, ESA, IS and Universal Credit sanction statistics
JSA, ESA, IS and Universal Credit sanction statistics are all now part of the benefit sanctions statistics. This contains statistics about the number of, and reasons for, sanction decisions and mandatory reconsideration/appeals on these decisions.
From August 2017, experimental statistics on durations have been published for the first time for ESA and Universal Credit, and from November 2017 for JSA. These statistics differ from the decision data that is published, as the durations data aims to determine the length of time that a sanction is served.
Also, from November 2017, statistics have been published on the benefit destinations of sanctioned claimants, showing if claimants flow off benefit post-sanction, and if so, to which benefit if any.
Alongside the statistical summary we also publish JSA and ESA sanction spreadsheet tables giving breakdowns such as:
- Jobcentre Plus office
- decision level
- customer characteristics
From November 2017 for JSA, ESA and Universal Credit we publish:
- durations of a sanction
- claimants undergoing a sanction at a point-in-time
- post-sanction benefit destinations
More detailed information, including statistics on medical conditions for sanctioned ESA claimants, is available on Stat-Xplore, DWP’s tool that allows users to create their own tables of statistics.
Income Support lone parent sanction statistics
Until May 2017, Income Support lone parent sanction statistics were also released on a quarterly basis but not in the same document as ESA and JSA.
The ISLP publication included the total number of sanctions applied to ISLP, the total number of lone parents who were sanctioned and the annual sanctions ‘rate’. This was calculated by dividing the total number of lone parents who were sanctioned in a 12 month period by the total number of people who claimed IS as a lone parent during the same period.
No breakdowns below a national level were included in the publication, and the sanctions figures were always expressed as a total for the most recent 12 month period. The ISLP statistics also included the number of work-focused interviews attended which would not naturally form part of any sanctions release.
Improvements to benefit sanction statistics
To improve the public understanding of benefit sanctions, and in response to user feedback, we want to bring these sanction statistics into one place and align the methodologies and presentation styles.
Which questions do users want to be able to answer?
The questions statistics users most frequently ask about sanctions are:
- how many claimants are being sanctioned?
- how many claimants have been sanctioned?
- what proportion of claimants challenge the department’s decision?
- what proportion of challenges are successful?
Users also want to know the proportion of claimants that are sanctioned. However, this can take 2 different forms, either:
- how many of the current benefit cases are undergoing a sanction?
- what is the likelihood of any claimant being sanctioned?
The ideal measure of how many of the current benefit cases are undergoing a sanction would be a snapshot in time of both the number being sanctioned and the number of people on benefit. This is published from August 2017 for ESA and Universal Credit, and November 2017 for JSA. By using duration data, the number of claimants with a drop in payment due to a sanction, for each benefit, on the same day as the claimant count for that benefit allows a calculation of the number of the current benefit cases undergoing a sanction. The methodology is currently in development to produce an IS rate.
Issues with how the data is collected and presented now
There are 2 different ways to tell whether a benefit sanction has been applied:
- looking at decisions made to sanction a claimant (the decision method)
- looking at whether the amount of benefit paid to a claimant has been reduced
We use the decision method for ESA, JSA, IS and Universal Credit sanction statistics, and a combination of the decision method and the payment drop method for the durations statistics.
The way that the JSA, ESA and IS sanctions data is currently stored and made available to our statisticians means that only the latest point of each decision is kept and the process of sanctions, decisions and mandatory reviews is not necessarily linear. In order for all sanction statistics to be presented consistently, a decision was made to present Universal Credit sanction statistics in a similar manner even though different data sources are used which capture all decisions.
When collecting and presenting the statistics in this way it can cause confusion over the number of original decisions to sanction and therefore the proportion that have been overturned. It also means that as some cases move on to mandatory reconsideration and appeal there will always be retrospective adjustments to earlier publications, except to the durations data which uses ended sanctions to calculate durations, and current drops in payment to calculate the point-in-time rate. This will not change in the future but is an important point to note when using the statistics.
The ISLP statistics previously made use of a weekly administrative data feed to identify drops in benefit amount which would indicate a sanction has been applied. This was based on the assumption that lone parents getting IS generally receive the same benefit amount and that a sanction would see a drop of 20% in this rate. However, we could not tell if the sanction had been applied following an initial decision or a reconsideration/appeal, and we could not see whether the sanction was overturned as a result of a later reconsideration/appeal as this would not be applied retrospectively in the weekly GMS scans.
From March 2016 the IS sanction decisions have been going through the same system as ESA and JSA which will allow us to standardise across the benefits. This means that, from May 2017, we became able to present data on IS sanctions in a similar way to that for JSA and ESA. The time lag before data becomes available for analysis, and the fact that the data up until the end of 2016 has not been updated as expected, means that the earliest this could be published was May 2017.
Change in the labelling of the sanctions process
We will be a lot clearer around the DWP process prior to a claimant making a formal request for a reconsideration.
Potential development to the sanctions underlying data
We will investigate whether it’s possible and how we can enrich the sanctions decisions data to give a clearer picture of what happens after a decision to sanction has been made. In some cases the claimant may withdraw their claim for benefit and therefore no monetary sanction will actually be carried out (although this would happen should the claimant return to benefit).
Create a monthly proportion of claimants sanctioned and publish this in the quarterly statistical summary
As of August 2017, we published in the quarterly statistical summary the monthly proportion of claimants with a reduction in benefit due to a sanction for ESA and Universal Credit.
In the new benefit sanction statistics publication in November 2017, we also included JSA. We will publish IS alongside the figures that form this proportion when they are available. Users will then be able to use this figure as a good estimate for the often asked question of how many claimants are being sanctioned.
For more information on how the monthly rates are calculated see Sanctions durations and rate: background information and methodology.
Response to the Public Accounts Committee on sanctions statistics publication strategy
The DWP Permanent Secretary’s response to the Public Accounts Committee on benefit sanctions outlined proposals on the further development of sanction statistics. Read the proposals in the response to the Public Accounts Committee.
Release strategy and timetable
The quarterly statistical summary published on 18 May 2016 contained a section on JSA and ESA sanction rates. Now that the work has been done to standardise the IS sanctions to the decision method, IS sanctions were then incorporated into the quarterly statistical summary.
Universal Credit sanction statistics will continue to be developed and expanded. It is anticipated that additional information will be included on Universal Credit as quality assurance of data progresses.
The department will continue to investigate the possibility of improving the underlying data source of the JSA, ESA, IS and Universal Credit sanction statistics and benefit duration statistics. An announcement on these developments will be made in future statistical summaries.
If you have any views on the type of statistics you would like to see available on sanctions or you have any comments on this publication strategy, please get in touch with us at: Statsfirstname.lastname@example.org