MORE than 6,000 Scots children were affected by benefit sanctions last year, according to a church report.
The report, Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions, was written by a coalition of major UK Churches including the Church of Scotland, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church.
It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under Welfare Reform, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.
The Poverty Truth Commission heard the story of a 40-year-old man from Glasgow who was sanctioned for missing an appointment.
A divorcee, he is a proud father who has worked for most of his life.
He now has no gas or electricity and has been reduced to shoplifting for food. While telling his story, shame, humiliation and desperation reduced him to tears.
Commenting on the publication of the report, the Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, said: “As a society we need to face up to the reality of this situation and think: is this really what we want to happen?
“It isn’t right that punishment rather support is what we offer to families or people with mental health problems who can’t find work.
“That’s why today we’re calling for a full and independent review of the sanctions regime.”
The Churches are also recommending urgent reform of the hardship payments system to avoid the deliberate imposition of hunger and are urging the Government to suspend all sanctions against families with children and those suffering from mental health problems.
Most importantly, they say, there needs to be a change of culture, from one of enforcement and punishment to one of assistance and support.