Coventry Law Centre

Welfare benefits advice

“In the year 2011-12 food banks fed 128,687 people in the UK and we forecasts that will rise to more than 230,000 during this year.”


The Trussell Trust, UK Food Bank Distribution Charity


What is a Benefit Sanction?

Certain benefits are paid on the basis that you meet certain conditions. This is called conditionality. Where these conditions are not met benefits can be sanctioned so benefit payment is suspended for a certain period.

Jobseekers Allowance Sanctions

The rules for Jobseekers Allowance sanctions changed on 22nd October 2012. Under the new sanctions regime there are “higher level sanctions”, "intermediate level sanctions" and “lower level sanctions”.

Higher level sanctions apply in the following situations:

There are three fixed escalating sanctions:

However a failure within 2 weeks of the current sanction does not cause a further escalation. There are further rules that prevent escalations in sanctions where the first/previous sanction occurred before the start of the JSA Claim. In addition sanctions applied where you leave a fixed-term contract early are limited to the date that the contract was due to end.

Lower level sactions and Intermediate level sanctions

Lower level

Lower level sanctions are applied where other conditions have not been met. These include failure to:

The period of the sanction in these cases is:

Intermediate level sanctions imposed where a claim for JSA ends after a decision that a claimant was not available for or actively seeking work and a new JSA claim is made. These sanctions are 4 weeks for the first new claim and 13 weeks for any subsequent new claims within 52 weeks of the most recent termination of a claim.

How to avoid being Sanctioned

The most obvious way to avoid being sanctioned is to comply with the work-related requirements to the benefit you are claiming. If you think a requirement is unreasonable you should discuss this with an advisor at the Jobcentre. You may also seek advice from an independent advisor about this.

When you are required to do work-search activities, apply for jobs or participate in Mandatory Work Activity, you should keep a careful record of what you have been asked to do and the steps you have taken to comply with the requirements. You should note the dates and times of interviews, telephone calls and appointments, and keep records of any correspondence. You should also note any other issues, such as health, caring responsibility or other important commitments.

Reasonableness and appeals

All of these sanctions can only be applied if it is considered that you did not have a good reason for your action. It is important when you are sanctioned that you explain to the Decision Maker why you took the course of action you did and detail any reasons that could constitute good cause. This could be a medical reason, caring responsibilities etc. You need to give your reasons to the Jobcentre within 5 working days of the failure in question. You should seek advice if you need help with this. If you are sanctioned you have a right of appeal against the sanction. For decisions made on or after 28th October 2013 you will need to seek a mandatory Reconsideration before you appeal. You should seek advice in this situation. There is a high rate of success with sanctions appeals.

Rate of sanction

All sanctions are imposed at the rate of the 100% of the JSA award. If you are in a joint claim couple if only one of you is sanctioned the remaining partner will be paid as a single person. If both are sanctioned the full JSA will cease.

Hardship Payments

Hardship Payments are made to people who are considered to be vulnerable. This applies if:

If you are subject to a sanction you should check whether you fit into one of these groups and if you do you should notify the Department for Work & Pensions of this. If the hardship payment is refused you have the right of appeal and should seek advice. You should also check carefully whether you or any family member can claim any other benefits. You can apply for Hardship Payments at any point during the sanction period. To claim you can sign a hardship statement form which you can get from the Jobcentre.

Amount of hardship payment

If you are entitled to a hardship payment the amount paid will be the usual rate of JSA reduced by 40% of the appropriate personal allowance single or of a single person in most cases. If you or a family member is pregnant or seriously ill the rate of reduction is 20%.


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