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Government move to axe ban on benefit sanctions branded 'terrible decision'

Therese Coffey made the comments ahead of a planned reopening of Jobcenters

2 min read

The government will not extend the three-month ban on benefit sanctions put in place during the coronavirus crisis, the work and pensions secretary has confirmed.

Therese Coffey told the Commons on Tuesday it was important to see a “claimant commitment” to finding work as Jobcentres prepare to reopen as lockdown measures are eased.

She was responding to a question from her opposite number, Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds, who said the ban on sanctions should be extended as families continue to face financial uncertainty and hardship.

“Well actually it’s important that as the Jobcentres fully reopen this week, that we do reinstate the need for having a claimant commitment,” Ms Coffey said.

"It’s an essential part of the contract to help people start to reconsider what vacancies there may be.

"But I know I can trust the work coaches, my Jobcentre managers who are empowered to act proactively where people, there will be some people right now who’ve never had to look for a job in the last 20 to 30 years.

"They will need careful support tailored to ensure they can start to look for the jobs that are available, and that I hope will become very soon available."

She said Jobcentres would still be able to “use their judgement” in individual cases after the ban ends on Tuesday.

The Cabinet minister admitted earlier this month that her department may need to double its 13,500-strong team of work coaches, who help people on benefits find employment, to help deal with economic fallout of the pandemic.

Lib Dem leadership hopeful Ed Davey said the move to axe sanction relief was “a terrible decision”.

He tweeted: “With unemployment rising, the economy flatlining and millions left with no support, families face unbelievable challenges. The govt must suspend benefit sanctions until the coronavirus crisis has passed.”

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