1. Main facts and figures

  • in November 2016, claimants from the Other ethnic group were most likely to be sanctioned, and claimants from the White British and Asian groups were least likely to be

  • older claimants were less likely to be sanctioned than younger claimants

  • a smaller percentage of White claimants were sanctioned than claimants from other ethnic groups in every quarter between February 2013 and November 2016, with the exception of January, February and March 2016

Things you need to know

This data counts the number of decisions to sanction, not the individuals being sanctioned. An individual can have more than one sanction in a month. For this reason, it isn’t possible to tell whether differences in the percentage of sanctions between ethnic groups are because more people in a particular group received sanctions, or because a number of individuals in that group received multiple sanctions.

Not all individuals reported their ethnicity: a subgroup of ‘unreported ethnicity’ is included if you download the data. Some ethnic groups may be more likely than others to not report their ethnicity, and are therefore more likely to form part of the ‘unreported’ group. For the data to be accurate, all ethnic groups would need to be equally likely to not report their ethnicity.

In December 2012 a new sanctions regime was introduced. This means data before this date is not directly comparable to data after it. For this reason, no data is included from the old sanctions regime on this page, but it is available on the Stat-Xplore website and in the DWP statistical summaries on GOV.UK.

As the numbers of claimants are low for some ethnic groups, a small change in the number of sanctions can have a large impact on the percentage.

These figures are subject to retrospection, which means they can be changed after being first published. This can happen if an Employment and Support Allowance sanction that was initially given was later revoked on appeal. Therefore, the figures here may not match other published sources (such as Nomis and Stat-Xplore).

What the data measures

This data measures the number of monthly decisions to reduce (‘sanction’) claimants’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as a percentage of ESA claims at a point in time in the same month, broken down by ethnicity.

The percentage is calculated by dividing the number of decisions to apply a sanction in a full calendar month by the claimant count at a point in time in the same month.

The figures shown in the chart and table for ESA sanctions by ethnicity over time are quarterly (in other words, the total number of sanctions for the 3 calendar months per quarter). A figure labelled ‘February 2016’ in the chart or table, for example, represents the results for January, February and March 2016.

Sanctions are only applied to ESA claimants in the work-related activity group. These claimants must go to regular interviews with an adviser, who can help them with job goals and improving their skills.

A person claiming ESA can be sanctioned (have their ESA reduced) if they:

  • fail to attend or participate in compulsory interviews
  • fail to undertake work-related activity

The reduction in ESA can last for between 1 and 4 weeks after a claimant restarts the interviews or activity, depending on the number of times they have failed to comply within a given time period. If they don’t restart the interviews or activity, the sanction is open-ended.

The data only includes ‘adverse’ decisions. An adverse decision is where a sanction was given to a claimant and either:

  • not appealed
  • upheld after it was appealed

All sanctions of this sort, whatever their length, have been included. Where months appear in the data, they refer to the calendar month in which the sanction decision was made. Where area appears in the data, it refers to the claimant's place of residence.

Claimants in the ESA support group don’t have conditions to meet, and therefore aren’t sanctioned.

The data about ESA claimants is broken down into 3 age groups:

  • 18 to 24 years
  • 25 to 49 years
  • 50 or over
The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people from specific ethnic categories surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions.

Therefore, the data is broken down into 6 broad groups, where ‘White Other’ refers to White ethnic minorities:

  • Asian/Asian British
  • Black/Black British
  • Mixed/Multiple
  • White British
  • White Other
  • Other

For data analysed both by ethnicity and by area, by age, or over time, sample sizes become smaller still. For this reason, the data is broken down into 2 broad groups:

  • White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
  • Other – all other ethnic minorities

2. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of claimants sanctioned, by ethnicity
Ethnicity % Number of sanctions
All 0.3 1,278
Asian 0.3 37
Black 0.5 46
Mixed 0.4 18
White British 0.3 1,027
White other 0.4 38
Other 0.6 31

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • the Asian and White British groups had the lowest percentage of claimants sanctioned, at 0.3%

  • the Other ethnic group had the highest percentage of claimants sanctioned, at 0.6%

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage and number of claimants sanctioned, by ethnicity over time
White Other
Month % Number of sanctions % Number of sanctions
Feb-13 0.2 863 0.3 129
May-13 0.3 1,374 0.4 182
Aug-13 0.3 1,624 0.6 244
Nov-13 0.4 2,027 0.7 322
Feb-14 0.6 2,556 0.9 417
May-14 0.7 2,887 0.9 411
Aug-14 0.5 1,925 0.7 309
Nov-14 0.4 1,782 0.7 290
Feb-15 0.4 1,648 0.6 237
May-15 0.3 1,082 0.5 213
Aug-15 0.2 774 0.4 135
Nov-15 0.2 792 0.4 144
Feb-16 0.2 773 0.2 90
May-16 0.2 827 0.4 132
Aug-16 0.2 842 0.3 96
Nov-16 0.3 1,062 0.4 131

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • since February 2013, White claimants have nearly always had a lower percentage of sanctions than claimants from the Other ethnic group – the only exception was in January, February and March 2016, when the figure for both groups was 0.2%

  • between May 2014 and November 2016, the percentage of sanctions for the claimants from other ethnic groups fell from 0.9% to 0.4%, while for White claimants it fell from 0.7% to 0.3%

4. By ethnicity and age group

Percentage and number of claimants sanctioned, by ethnicity and age group
White Other
Age group % Number of sanctions % Number of sanctions
18-24 1.1 204 1.4 16
25-49 0.4 651 0.5 78
50-64 0.1 210 0.2 38

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • for all age groups, the percentage sanctioned was higher for claimants from other ethnic groups than for White claimants

  • for both White claimants and claimants from other ethnic groups, 18 to 24 year olds were most likely to be sanctioned and 50 to 64 year olds were least likely to be sanctioned

  • both White claimants and claimants from other ethnic groups were nearly 3 times more likely to be sanctioned if they were aged 18 to 24 years than if they were aged 25 to 49 years

5. Methodology

Figures on the number of claimants receiving benefit for Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity group (ESA (WRAG)) are based on Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) administrative data.

Figures on the number of decisions to sanction (decisions to reduce the claimants’ personal allowance) are official statistics from the DWP Quarterly Benefits Summary and the dissemination tool Stat-Xplore.

They include all sanctions irrespective of length. Sanctions are open-ended until the claimant re-engages with their interview or work-related activity, followed by a fixed-length sanction applied for a period of between 1 week and 4 weeks, depending on the number of failures to comply that a claimant has had within a given time period.

ESA sanctions are only applied to claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG). Claimants in the ESA Support Group do not have any conditions to meet, and therefore are not subject to sanctions.

The monthly percentage is calculated by dividing the number of decisions to apply a sanction in a full calendar month by the claimant count at a point in time in the same month. Sanction decisions here do not include decisions that have been reversed, for example on an appeal by the claimant.

The point-in-time monthly claimant count is calculated as the number of people claiming ESA on the last day of the month and is only available for every third month (quarterly).

Statistics on ESA sanctions are taken from a combination of data from 3 IT systems. Recording and clerical errors can occur within these systems, and for this reason no reliance should be placed on very small numbers.

The ESA (WRAG) claimant count and number of sanctions is published quarterly, giving a quarterly breakdown.

The methodology for calculating the experimental monthly percentage of claimants sanctioned each month was recently changed in the August 2017 Quarterly Benefits Summary, and differs from that used here. The new methodology is based on the start and end dates of sanctions. Figures calculated using the new methodology will be available from Stat-Xplore at a later date.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Where the numbers involved are too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, the data has been ‘suppressed’. This means it has been excluded from the analysis. For this data, cell values have been randomly adjusted. Random adjustment is the best way to avoid the release of identifiable data.

These adjustments result in small, introduced random errors. However, the information value of the table as a whole is not impaired.

It’s not possible to say which individual figures are affected, but the variability introduced by the adjustment is generally small enough to be ignored.

Values can also be affected by respondent and processing errors. You should treat data where the numbers are small with particular care.

Rounding

The figures in the tables for total numbers of sanctions are unrounded. However, disclosure control has been applied.

Percentages have been rounded to 1 decimal place.

Related publications

Benefit sanctions statistics

Quality and methodology information

6. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Department for Work and Pensions

Publication frequency

Quarterly

Purpose of data source

The figures for the number of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work-Related Activity Group and the number of decisions to sanction the benefit are administrative data used to produce official and experimental statistics.

Secondary source

Publisher

Department for Work and Pensions

Publication frequency

Quarterly

7. Download the data