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The wider impacts of benefit sanctions: educational attendance, behaviour and attainment

Research overview

The level of benefit sanctions has been increasing for several years, aiming to deliver savings and economic benefits by motivating individuals to return to work more quickly. However, loss of income may cause unintended consequences such as poor diet, combined with stress, causing poor health; or increased risks of criminal activity. This project looks at whether sanctions place added strain on domestic relationships with negative impacts for child welfare or well-being. In particular, it looks at whether sanctions on parents lead to a deterioration in children’s attendance at school, their behaviour while they are there, and their attainment in exams. These could have negative effects for the children in the longer term, as well as increased costs for the state. Understanding these effects is important in making a rounded judgement on the value of the policy.

 


Benefit

This study will explore hidden social and fiscal costs of benefit sanctions, giving government, third sector campaigning organisations, and wider society a more rounded view of benefit sanctions. The focus is on potential negative effects on children’s education, but these are indicative of underlying problems in family relationships and family functioning which have wider implications for child welfare and well-being. This work is expected to be of great interest to those involved in debates about welfare reform in general and sanctions in particular.

 


Government departments

Data from the Department for Work and Pensions and Scottish Government and local authorities

 


More about the project

In recent years, successive Governments have increased the number of conditions which claimants must meet in order to receive the unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). If people fail to comply with these conditions, they can be sanctioned, i.e. their benefits are stopped for a period of time. The rate of sanctions has doubled over the last five years. In the year to September 2014, almost one fifth of people claiming JSA – 570,000 individuals across the UK – were sanctioned (DWP statistics).

Sanctions may save the Government money directly when benefits are stopped. They also aim to deliver wider savings and economic benefits by motivating individuals to return to work more quickly. However, several ‘side effects’ or unintended consequences of sanctions have been discussed: for example, that the loss of income due to sanctions may result in worse diet which, combined with the stress of coping without benefits, may result in worse health; or that loss of income may result in increased risks of criminal activity.

This project looks at an unintended consequence for children and young people: whether sanctions place added strain on domestic relationships with negative impacts for child welfare or well-being. In particular, it looks at whether sanctions on parents lead to a deterioration in children’s attendance at school, their behaviour while they are there, and their attainment in exams. All of these could have significant negative effects for the children in the longer term, as well as increased costs for the state. Understanding these impacts is therefore very important if we are to make a rounded judgement on the value of this policy.

To study these issues, the project seeks to combine administrative data from two main sources: from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on parents’ benefits histories and sanctions records; and from Scottish Government and local authorities on school pupil attendance, behaviour and attainment.


Date Approved

September 2015 


Lead researcher 

Nick Bailey, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow 


Page last updated: 24/10/2017