Benefit sanctions are financial penalties imposed on claimants who do not fulfil the requisite commitments related to the benefits they are claiming. This can include missing appointments, interviews or meetings. If you find yourself being sanctioned your benefit (s) payments will either be reduced or stopped completely.
Which benefits can be sanctioned?
Each person who receives one of these benefits will have either signed a claimant commitment contract OR will have had their activities recorded in a Job Seekers Agreement. If it is decided an individual is not fulfilling the tasks they agreed to then they could face being sanctioned.
Impact on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction
Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction benefits should not be reduced or stopped even if you have been sanctioned for other benefits. That said, your local JobCentre Plus will get on touch with your local council to confirm that you have been sanctioned. This could mean your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction could be stopped unless you confirm your new income level, taking into account the reduced amount of money you will be receiving from sanctioned benefits.
How to cope with less money
If you have been sanctioned it is imperative that you plan your income and expenditure so you can ensure you can still meet essential payments. You should make a list of all outgoings and the date on which you need to pay them. If possible, try and make savings and look for better deals where available. Focus on being able to pay essentials such as rent, energy and food. If you are struggling, check out our section on getting Emergency Assistance.
If you are concerned about falling behind with payments it is always best to speak to the person/organisation with which you owe the money to. For example, if you think you won’t be able to afford your rent, tell your Landlord in advance, rather than getting into arrears without letting him/her know. Equally, speak to your energy provider if you are struggling to pay your bill, as they have processes in place to deal with customers in a similar situation. You can get more support and advice at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
How to appeal a benefit sanction
If you feel the decision to sanction your benefit was unfair you have the right to ask JobCentre Plus to reconsider their decision. Typically this is because…
- You feel they should not have sanctioned you
- You feel you have received the incorrect level of sanction
- You feel they have miscalculated the reduction amount
- You feel they have reduced your benefit for the wrong length of time
This step is known as a Mandatory Reconsideration, part of launching an appeal – see our full section on appealing a benefits decision.
How to avoid being sanctioned
Being sanctioned can bring additional financial hardship so it is best to try and avoid this occuring to begin with. Here are some tips to help avoid benefit sanctions…
- If you cannot make an appointment, give notice as soon as you can
- Keep a diary of all benefit related activities
- Tell the JobCentre if you cannot fulfil any required tasks
- Keep a copy of all paperwork you are sent in relation to benefit claims
Communication is the key – you are far less likely to have a sanction imposed if you keep in touch with your local JobCentre and explain if any issues arise that could impact your eligibility.