On the 10th September 2015 Baroness Sherlock asked the government what plans they have to review the operation of sanctions on benefits. The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd. Donald Allister, asked a supplementary question about the impact the cost of travel has on people in rural areas when they are required to attend appointments at JobCentre Plus.
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, the Feeding Britain report showed that some people have been sanctioned for missing or being late for appointments when it is not their own fault. Is it not possible for the staff at Jobcentre Plus to be given some discretion in whether or not to apply sanctions? Along the same lines, is it fair that some people in rural communities have to spend £7 or more on bus fares to get to routine appointments when the likes of me, who can well afford bus fares, are entitled to a free bus pass?
Lord Freud: Jobcentre Plus people do have discretion. There is some, although less, discretion for Work Programme providers. We layer up that discretion with decisions from our decision-makers. It can then go to mandatory reconsideration and on to appeal, so there is a system to allow these things to be reviewed very flexibly. On the other point, the decision that older people should get free travel is one which was made by several Governments in the past.