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← Overview Database of Innovative Social Policies in Europe

Welfare Reform Act 2012 ? new sanctions regime

Country of implementation
United Kingdom
General short description of the innovation
Prior to the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which constitutes the basis of the Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sanctions regulations, the maximum period for which a claimant's benefit could be stopped for a breach of the rules was six months. New rules which came into force following the Act increased the maximum period of a JSA benefit sanction to three years. / / The reform of the sanctions rules for JSA claimants (JSA regulations 2012) broadly align with the rules for Universal Credit claimants and involve three categories of sanctions: ??higher?, ?intermediate? and ?lower? sanctions, depending on the nature of the offence. There are also different levels of sanctions for first, second and third offences. In 2013, another regulation removed income-related rules and brought contribution-based Jobseeker?s Allowance into line with Universal Credit on labour market requirements. / / The Act also strengthened ESA sanctions. Under the new rules, ESA Work Related Activity Group claimants who fail to comply can receive the same open-ended sanction of their work-related activity component that applied in the previous system, followed by a new fixed period sanction once they start to comply again.
Target group
Total Population
Policy Field
  • employment
  • social
Type of Policy
  • public
Duration of the policy
since 2012
Scope of innovation
  • Scope: structural
  • Spatial coverage: Great Britain
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
reinforce compliance with benefit rules and incentivise job search and labour market participation
Nature of the innovation-long-term perspective
programmatic and radical change in the perception of rights and obligation of people on benefits
Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
  • liberalisation
Type of innovation
  • retrenchment or expansion of an existing/earlier policy
New outputs
  • benefit duration
  • benefit eligibility
  • benefit level
Intended target group
Means-tested JSA and ESA claimants
Working age population
  • employment situation (unemployed)
  • main source of income: social protection (social assistance and disability benefits)
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • agency or national social insurance body (Jobcentre Plus)
  • central state (DWP)
Clarification of the role of various actors
For both JSA and ESA, Jobcentre Advisers are responsible for referring claimants for a sanction where they believe the claimant has failed to meet the conditions of benefit?known as "raising a doubt". The decision about whether a sanction should be applied rests with a DWP Labour Market Decision Maker, who is independent of the employment support process, following the rules as set out in legislation and several internal staff guidance documents.
Intended output
  • benefit duration
  • benefit eligibility
  • benefit level
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