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Benefit sanctions and homelessness: a scoping report (2015)

In 2010, the incoming Coalition Government pressed ahead with plans set in train by the previous administration for a programme of welfare reform that placed conditionality and responsibility at the heart of welfare policy.

Key findings

  • The official statistics on sanctions do not include details of claimants’ housing circumstances. As a result robust data on the numbers of homeless people sanctioned are not available, representing a critical gap in the evidence base. The tentative insights that can be gleaned from wider evidence and statistics suggest that homeless people may be disproportionately affected by sanctions.
  • Claimants who are sanctioned and homeless people in hostels and shelters share some key characteristics, most notably age and gender profile. Homeless people are, therefore, more likely to be sanctioned - simply by virtue of their age and gender - before other factors are taken into account
  • Available research evidence suggests that a relatively high proportion of homeless people are sanctioned - one third according to one study
  • There is a strong body of evidence that points to an increased risk of sanctions amongst ‘vulnerable’ groups and those with characteristics likely to present barriers to navigating the system. Homelessness is rarely mentioned in these studies but we know from the extensive literature about single homeless people that such barriers (ill health, substance misuse, lack of work experience, literacy issues and low self-esteem, amongst others) are commonly experienced by homeless people. 
  • Homeless people, then, may face a ‘double whammy’: disproportionally sanctioned by virtue of belonging to groups overrepresented in the sanctions statistics (young, male), but also more likely to experience barriers to complying with the new conditionality regime.


Beatty, C., Foden, M., McCarthy, L. & Reeve, K. (2015) Benefit sanctions and homelessness: a scoping report. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University.