Expert comment - autumn statement: “Our research shows benefit sanctions are unhelpful in getting people back to work”
As the Chancellor outlines changes to increase monitoring and sanctions for welfare benefit claimants in today’s autumn statement, Professor Lisa Scullion from the University of Salford gives her view on the impact the changes may have.
“Welfare reforms throughout the last decade have disproportionately impacted some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
“At the University of Salford, we have had an instrumental role in a project called Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change. This was an innovative five-year study that explored people’s experiences of the welfare system. It was the largest ever project of its kind, with over a thousand in-depth interviews carried out with people from a range of backgrounds.
“This research found overwhelming evidence that benefit sanctions are unhelpful in getting people into work. Instead, even the threat of sanctions had serious impacts on mental and physical health: worsening existing conditions, and causing new health problems, including anxiety, low mood, and depression. This all actually prevented people being able to effectively look for work.
“Conditionality was also counterproductive, forcing people to spend large amounts of time and energy complying with job-search requirements that did little if anything to enhance their prospect of gaining work. Many people also reported being put under pressure to apply for inappropriate jobs – again wasting their time and the time of the prospective employer they were applying to.
“The government must ensure its Back to Work Plan does not become counterproductive by worsening people's access to opportunities, as well as their mental and physical health, therefore making it more difficult for them to get into work.”
Lisa is Professor of Social Policy and Co-Director of both the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit and the Centre for Research on Inclusive Society at the University of Salford.
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