Just been out for a couple of hours walking in a vain attempt to pretend I'm fit. Getting back I notice a suspiciously brown envelope a-waiting for me on the doormat. I turn it over and, sure enough, there's a return address for the DWP on the back. Now what can this be about. I get that bad boy open and sure enough there's a Jobcentre Plus letter that mentions sanctions, but...
It appears to be a generic letter sent care of 'Manager' (the guy hasn't even signed the thing) from our Beloved Lord and Master, the Secretary of State (that no one elected). This letter seems to be in response to the recent court judgement where the DWP got their knuckles rapped for not properly informing people of the consequences of actions they couldn't decide were mandatory. It reads:
You are currently participating in the Work Programme. When we first referred you to the WP, we gave/sent you a letter in which we told you about your requirement to participate, set out what you must do as part of the requirement and provided information about the consequences of any failure to take part. I am now writing to you and other participants in the WP to provide more detail of those consequences. All other requirements remain as set out in your initial notification letter.
In your initial notification letter we said that your JSA could stop for up to 26 weeks if you fail, without a good reason, to take part in the WP. This would include failing to complete any activity that your Provider has required you to do.
If you do fail to take part and we decide that your JSA should be sanctioned, your benefit will be stopped and you will lose NI credits for:
Two weeks, for a first failure;
Four weeks, if we have previously decided that your JSA should be sanctioned because you failed without good reason to take part in the WP or any other scheme set up under the JSA (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, and that sanction started within the last 12 months; or
26 weeks, if we decided on two ore more previous occasions that your JSA should be sanctioned because you failed without good reason to take p[art in the WP or any other scheme set up under those Regulations, and the most recent sanction started within the last 12 months.
If your benefit is stopped for 26 weeks, you may have the sanction lifted (after a minimum of 4 weeks) if you:
Fully re-engage with the sanctioned requirement at any time; or
Fully engage with a different requirement notified to you.
This letter is for your information only and you do not need to take any action. If you have any queries please ask at your next appointment at the Jobcentre.
Manager (on behalf of the Secretary of State)
I'm not familiar with the JSA Regulations of 2011, perhaps someone else can explain what schemes fall under those regulations. I seem to recall some dispute as to whether even the WP fell under those regulations. Of course this is deliberately vague in places: "you may have the sanction lifted...", which implies that decision is at least discretionary. But they do seem clear about what constitutes a sanctionable offence (bearing in mind what I've just said about legitimate schemes) and the hierarchy of sanctions. It says quite clearly, if this is your first 'offence', then you get no help for 2 weeks.
God knows how much it's cost to print all this out. It doesn't specifically mention workfare nor does it address the crux of the problem the judge highlighted in that the mandation process was at fault for not making the consequences clear. This letter just tells you what the sanction regime is; it doesn't say whether or not workfare falls under the aforementioned regs, but one must assume it does.
I expect many of us will be receiving this letter over the coming days. Good times!