Commenting in response to the National Audit Office (NAO) report on benefit sanctions the Employment Related Services Association’s (ERSA) Chief Executive, Kirsty Mchugh, said:

“Today’s report into benefit sanctions chimes with ERSA’s belief that the conditionality system is in need of fundamental reform.  We strongly believe that employment support works best when there is a relationship of trust between jobseeker and adviser and that the threat of sanctions can undermine this positive relationship.

“With the sanction regime set to be extended under Universal Credit, the government must increase the evidence base for both conditionality and sanctions as a matter of urgency.  ERSA backs the introduction of simple changes, including introducing a warning system for a first offence and providing employment advisers on contracted programmes with more discretion not to have to report back on clients to Jobcentre Plus. 

“Today’s NAO report adds to the growing weight of support for overhauling the current sanction regime – this is a welcome and necessary development if we are to properly support jobseekers, some of whom are the most vulnerable in society.”