Homeless Young People — [John Robertson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:19 pm on 21st January 2015.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central 3:19 pm, 21st January 2015

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I am sure we could all cite similar examples from our constituency case load. The question is why we have such a punitive sanction regime. I was out fairly recently knocking on doors, as many hon. Members have been doing lately, and I talked to a constituent who is a jobcentre worker. We discussed her work, and she told me that she and her colleagues were under pressure to impose sanctions and hit targets. In a survey of Public and Commercial Services Union workers representing jobcentre workers, 23% said that they had been given explicit targets for referring claimants for sanctions; 36% said they had been placed on a performance improvement plan for not making enough sanctions; and 10% had gone through poor performance procedures for not making enough sanction referrals.

The Government have said that there is no pressure to sanction, but somehow a culture has been created in the DWP that suggests otherwise. The DWP acknowledges that statistics on sanctions are collated centrally and that managers can be contacted if their performance is out of line with that of other job centres. It says that that is a matter of good management and that no league tables are compiled, or targets set. In that case, why is a lower level of sanctions seen as an indication of poor performance, requiring managerial action? We need to recognise the impact of the DWP benefits sanction regime, which is driving up homelessness. I ask the Minister to commit to talk to DWP colleagues about that.