Man working

Benefit Sanctions - March 2018 quarter

A sanction is a penalty imposed on a person’s benefit for failure to fulfill their work obligations.

Sanctions can affect benefit recipients in a number of ways depending on their circumstances and the number of times they have had a sanction imposed over the last 12 months. There are three types of sanctions: graduated (ie percentage reduction in benefit amount), suspended and cancelled. Not everyone who fails their obligations gets sanctioned; if benefit recipients recomply or provide additional information, their failure to fulfill their obligations can be withdrawn.

Sole parents and couples with dependent children face a maximum 50 percent reduction of their main benefit when sanctioned within a 12-month period. For single people with no dependent children, the first sanction is a maximum 50 percent reduction of their main benefit; for a second failure, they face a 100 percent suspension of their main benefit; and a third sanction will result in the main benefit being cancelled.

Sanctions data is reported in two different ways to show different aspects of the data: flow data and point-in-time data.

Flow data is the sum of all sanction events that occur in the quarter (eg for the March quarter, it is the sum of all sanction events in January, February and March). This data contains graduated, suspended and cancelled sanctions imposed due to the failure to fulfill work obligations.

Point-in-time data is the number of sanctions imposed at a point in time due to the failure to fulfill work obligations (eg for March, it is the number of sanctions as at 31 March). Only graduated sanctions can be reported using point-in-time data.

Two-year trend for all sanctions (flow data)

The number of benefit sanctions imposed due to the failure to fulfill work obligations decreased by 4.9 percent in the March 2018 quarter compared to the March 2017 quarter (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Quarterly benefit sanctions numbers, March 2016 to March 2018

Figure 1: Quarterly benefit sanctions numbers, March 2016 to March 2018

By the end of the March 2018 quarter, the number of sanctions issued for failing to attend arranged appointment(s) was down by 807 (or a 7.6 percent decrease) compared to the March 2017 quarter. The number of sanctions issued because of failing to participate in work decreased by 303 (a 16.9 percent decrease). On the other hand, the number of sanctions issued due to clients’ failure to prepare for work was up by 320 (an increase of 10.5 percent) compared to the last 12 months (Figure 2).

Note that not everyone who fails their obligations gets penalized. If a benefit recipient recompiles or provides additional information, the failure to fulfill his/her obligation can be withdrawn.

Figure 2: Quarterly benefit sanctions reasons, March 2016 to March 2018

Figure 2: Quarterly benefit sanctions reasons, March 2016 to March 2018

Annual comparison – all sanctions (flow data)

March 2017 quarter

March 2018 quarter

Annual change

Total number of sanctions

15,465 14,705 4.9 percent decrease

Number of sanctions imposed on Jobseeker Support recipients

11,789 12,032 2.1 percent increase

Number of sanctions imposed on Sole Parent Support recipients

3,558 2,537 28.7 percent decrease

Number of graduated sanctions

13,174 11,857 10.0 percent decrease

Number of suspended/cancelled sanctions

2,291 2,848 24.3 percent increase

Annual comparison – graduated sanctions (point-in-time data)

As at 31 March 2017

As at 31 March 2018

Annual change

Number of work-tested benefit recipients with graduated sanctions

2,627 2,204 16.1 percent decrease

Number of benefit recipients with work obligations

198,972 193,987 2.5 percent decrease

Percentage of work-tested benefit recipients with graduated sanctions

1.3% 1.1% 0.2 percentage point decrease

Note 1: A small number of non-work tested benefit recipients may be included in point-in-time data because they had a sanction on a previous benefit but have since transferred to a benefit which is not work-tested.