Strict DWP Sanctions On Benefits Claimants Are Harmful And Counter-Productive, ‘Nudge Unit’ Warns

The report recommends that the DWP conduct pilot schemes to understand “the impact of entitlement conditionality (and associated sanctions) on fluid IQ and self-efficacy”.

“We recommend comparing outcomes from conditionality where claimants are asked to design their own conditions (perhaps from a pre-specified list), versus conditions imposed by the government.”

It adds that some schemes where people ask their friends to monitor their progress “have proven effective motivational tools and could be adapted to the welfare system”.

The report declares that for many who are “‘just managing’ are not only often short on time and money, but also short on headspace”.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who chairs the Behavioural Insights Unit’s commissioning Board, praised it last month for bringing “a fresh and empirical lens to thinking about the challenges we face”.

In its report today, the unit adds: “Given that individuals have limited bandwidth, a clear responsibility for the government is to ensure that services do not exhaust but rather optimise their ability to make good choices for themselves,” it says.

“This means taking a holistic view of poverty and decision-making across different services, not just focusing on outcomes in one narrow policy domain. It also means ensuring that both the design and framing of services minimises stigma and stereotype threat.”

Dr Kizzy Gandy, a led researcher at the policy unit, said “simple tweaks” to services could help.

“Government policies should help people to have less on their mind, not more,” she said.

“We are optimistic that behavioural science can help government departments to better design policies to help those who are ‘just managing’ in order to prevent and overcome poverty.

“We find that in many cases, simple tweaks to service design can yield disproportionate gains in improving decision-making.”

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