NEW figures released this week show that Job Seekers’ Allowance claimants in Swindon have had their money docked almost 1,600 times in a year.
Between October 2012 and September 2013, the Jobcentre Plus Office in Spring Garden House made 1,557 decisions against claimants.
A further 1,586 investigations were carried out which were then decided in favour of the claimant.
There are a total of 3,600 claimants in the town, although the Swindon office also caters for the outlying area.
JSA can be docked for a number of reasons, such as missing an appointment with a job officer, failing to apply for an adequate number of jobs or voluntarily leaving a work placement.
The sanctions can include stopping payments for a period of time or even stopping the payments altogether.
Across the whole country there were a total of 818,000 sanctions. The Government has hailed it as a sign action is being taken to ensure people are looking for work.
However, while claimants in Swindon are broadly supportive of the idea of sanctions, they say payments are often stopped before full an explanation is given.
Among them is 52-year-old Karen Simpson, who has been on JSA for almost two years.
She said: “It is important they look into everything properly before they stop any money and they could be more sympathetic.
“Everyone wants to work and is looking for jobs but sometimes there will be a very good reason as to why someone may not be able to make a meeting.”
Ben, 23, who did not want to give his surname, was signing on for the first time yesterday and had concerns about how strict the Jobcentre Plus will be.
He said: “I think sanctions for people who are not doing enough is a good thing but it depends on the situation as to whether sanctions should be in place.
“People get ill and have emergencies so might not be able to make the weekly meeting.
“The Jobcentre should make a proper investigation into why before they stop payments.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said he believed the figures are positive.
“It shows we are serious about getting people back into work and it’s right we do all we can to make sure they seek an opportunity to work,” he said.