A report by homelessness charity Crisis into benefit sanctions revealing a postcode lottery where people are more likely to be penalised has underlined the need for an independent investigation into the practice.
The report found significant variations in sanction rates in different parts of the UK and also found that Aberdeenshire and Clackmannanshire are amongst the areas where people are most likely to be sanctioned.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, responded to the report saying “evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime” and called on “our next Government to commit to an urgent, wide-ranging review looking at the appropriateness and effectiveness of sanctions, especially for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.”
The SNP has previously called for an independent investigation into evidence that suggests DWP staff are being pressurised into imposing sanctions.
A recent PCS survey which found 82% of staff questioned felt that they were under pressure to suggest more people who could be sanctioned, while Inclusion Scotland’s Director of Policy Bill Scott has also told of DWP staff who have been warned that they will be disciplined because they have not imposed enough sanctions.
Commenting, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said:
“This report will only add to the mounting concerns over the unfair and punitive way that benefit sanctions are being applied.
“The fact that major regional differences have emerged in sanction rates is further evidence that DWP staff in some parts of the country are being pressurised into imposing sanctions.
“That is unacceptable and only adds to the sense that Westminster’s sanctions regime is running out of control.
“An investigation into this practice that causes such hardship to so many people in difficult circumstances is long overdue and the SNP will continue to press for one to take place.”