THE Church of Scotland has joined calls for the UK Government to set up a full independent review of the benefits sanctions system.
The Kirk today released a statement claiming that in the 100 days since a House of Commons select committee called for a review, there is no evidence the government intends to act.
It added that during the same 100 day period last year, more than 15,000 Scots on Job Seekers Allowance were sanctioned.
It has now joined other churches and charities in a demand that the Government “urgently heed” the Committee’s report and act on its recommendations.
The Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Vice-Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said: “The impact and effect of sanctions on individuals, families and communities across Scotland have been devastating.
“Far from encouraging people back to work, they impose punitive and indiscriminate financial hardship on thousands of people who need help.
“Removing support from people with mental ill health or parents of children will do nothing to reduce inequality and improve life chances for people who struggle against poverty.”
In March this year the Church of Scotland along with the Church in Wales, Church Action on Poverty, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church called for such a review in their report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions.
The report revealed that around 100,000 children were affected by sanctions in 2013/14.
Across the UK as a whole, 346,256 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance and 35,554 people on Employment Support Allowance were referred for sanctions.
Of those referrals, 92,559 were the result of bureaucratic error.
And in Scotland, 15,398 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance were sanctioned.
The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also shows that people who receive the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of a long-term mental health problem are being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day.
“The case has been made,” said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church. “The sanctions system requires fundamental review.
“Churches and charities are backing this call because we see day by day the harm that benefit sanctions cause in the communities we serve.”