Benefits claimants hit by stopped payments

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Job centre in Liverpool. Pic by JMU Journalism

Job centre in Liverpool. Pic by JMU Journalism

Job seekers in Merseyside have had their benefits docked nearly 50,000 times due to welfare payment restrictions, it has been revealed.

The figures were released in a report by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which included information on all 26 Merseyside job centres.

Job centre staff in Toxteth, Park road and Old Swan only docked sanctions five times between October 2012 and June this year.

However, the same could not be said for the St Helens’ branch located on Central Street, who docked JSA payments 5,127 times in the same period.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “Every day Jobcentre Plus advisers are working hard to help people into jobs – unemployment is falling and a record number of people are in work. Sanctions are only used as a last resort if people fail to take up the support which is on offer. There are no targets for sanctions.”

Job seekers’ allowance can be withheld from applicants if they refuse to work, fail to turn up to appointments or are not applying for enough job openings.

This can lead to an allowance stoppage from four to 13 weeks, depending on the issue.

The spokesperson for the DWP added: “In any given month, the vast majority – around 95%, of claimants – are not sanctioned. Anyone who is referred for a sanction has the opportunity to give a good reason why they didn’t follow the rules.

“If someone is sanctioned they can ask for a reconsideration or appeal to an independent tribunal. The DWP has a well-established system of hardship payments for people in need.”

Jobs centres across the region issued an average of 1,787 sanctions from October 2012 until June this year, which is below the national average.

About Sarah Hancocks, JMU Journalism