The DWP has announced that financial sanctions lasting three years will be scrapped for benefits claimants.
Sanctions can be imposed for missing appointments or failure to show efforts to find work, and can see claimants lose 100% of their Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit standard allowance.
In some “higher level” cases – such as a failure to take up paid work – claimants can lose benefits for as long as three years.
But on Thursday, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said: “I will end financial sanctions for welfare claimants that last for three years.
“Such sanctions were rarely used, but I believe they were counter-productive and ultimately undermine our goal of supporting people into work.
“In the future, the longest length of a sanction will be six months.”
In November last year a committee of MPs called for an urgent reassessment of the benefit sanctions regime, warning that the current system seemed “pointlessly cruel” to some claimants.
The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee said the human cost of the policy was “simply too high”, with evidence showing that its impact was at best “mixed” and at worst “arbitrarily punitive”.
The committee’s report found that single parents, care leavers and people with disabilities and health conditions were “disproportionately vulnerable” to sanctions.
The report warned that children risked becoming “collateral damage” as the withdrawal of parents’ benefits harmed their welfare, warned the report. Without clear evidence that sanctions were driving a return to work by single parents, it was “hard to justify” their inclusion in the system.