Sanction-free Scotland : the Case for Voluntary Employability Programmes

Heap, Daniel (2016) Sanction-free Scotland : the Case for Voluntary Employability Programmes. Scottish Green Party, Edinburgh.

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Responsibility over some aspects of the benefits system and also the programmes that provide support to benefit recipients seeking work will be devolved to Scotland in April 2017. This is part of a broader devolution package recommended by the Smith Commission and made law in the form of the Scotland Act (2016) in March this year. From then, the Scottish Parliament will replace the UK government’s Work Programme and Work Choice schemes. Currently, benefit recipients can be referred to the Work Programme on a mandatory basis, and sanctions applied to recipients’ benefits if they refuse to take part, or are deemed not to be sufficiently engaging with the support offered. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that benefit sanctions have increased hardship; fuelled the need for foodbanks; worsened sanctioned claimants’ health, and all this whilst having limited positive impact on helping claimants return to work. Whilst the sanctions regime will remain a reserved matter, this report makes the argument that devolution of responsibility for employment programmes means that the Scottish Parliament can significantly reduce the level of sanctioning in Scotland and ensure that no employment programme run by the Scottish Government is associated with sanctions.