Benefit sanctions to be reintroduced as DWP prepares to reopen jobcentes

Work and pensions secretary tells MPs that over 17,000 DWP officials are now working remotely
Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

By Kate Forrester

30 Jun 2020

The government will not extend the three-month ban on benefit sanctions put in place during the coronavirus crisis, the work and pensions secretary has confirmed.

Therese Coffey told the Commons on Tuesday it was important to see a “claimant commitment” to finding work as Jobcentres prepare to reopen as lockdown measures are eased.

She told MPs that the department was “now working with local managers to start fully reopening jobcentres in July to help get Britain back into work” and responding to a question from her Labour shadow Jonathan Reynolds, said it was “important that as the Jobcentres fully reopen this week, that we do reinstate the need for having a claimant commitment,” Coffey said.

Reynolds who said the ban on sanctions should be extended as families continue to face financial uncertainty and hardship, but Coffey added: “It is an essential part of the contract to help people start to reconsider what vacancies there are, but I know that I can trust the work coaches and jobcentre managers, who are empowered to act proactively with people. There will be some people right now who have not had to look for a job for the last 20 to 30 years, and they will need careful support, tailored to make sure they can start to look for the jobs that are available and which I hope will soon become available.”

She said Jobcentres would still be able to “use their judgement” in individual cases after the ban ends on Tuesday.

The cabinet minister admitted earlier this month that her department may need to double its 13,500-strong team of work coaches, who help people on benefits find employment, to help deal with economic fallout of the pandemic.

She once again praised the work of DWP and Jobcentre staff for “their tireless work through this emergency in supporting an unprecedented level of new claimants as well as existing claimants”.

She told MPs: “To assist this effort, we redeployed thousands of staff and streamlined our processes where possible. Over 17,000 people are now working remotely, and we have already recruited new people into DWP to help with the increased demand.”

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