Young adults hit hardest by benefit sanctions

Benefit sanctions are having a disproportionate effect on young adults, according to a report written by Heriot-Watt researchers for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Impact of sanctions on under 25s

The report is highlighted in a blog written by Heriot-Watt's Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick and considers the impact of a rising percentage of benefit claimants facing sanctions. Monthly sanction rates now stand at more than double the levels seen in the early 2000s.

The report says that under-25s face a substantially higher risk of being sanctioned than older adults (8% of this age group are affected per month, compared to around 5.5% of all claimants).

The reasons for this are not entirely clear, said Beth Watts. "It may be that younger claimants have a more relaxed attitude to sanctioning, as they are more able than older claimants to rely on family support, and/or that they are simply less experienced at navigating behavioural requirements than older groups. Alternatively, or in addition, younger claimants may tend to have more chaotic lifestyles that make compliance with behavioural conditions difficult. It is also possible that this group face direct or indirect discrimination within the benefit system, leaving them vulnerable to sanctioning even if they are equally 'compliant'."

Whatever the explanation, say the report's authors, the disproportionate impact of sanctions on under 25s gives cause for concern in a context where this group face significant challenges in other areas, with high rates of youth unemployment, real declines in earning and high rents meaning that many young people are unable to leave the family home, and those that do face high rates of poverty.

It is also particularly concerning, the authors add, in light of future plans by both the Conservative and Labour parties to restrict benefit entitlement among young people.