TORY plans to further punish people on benefits by threatening them with sanctions if they do not meet tough new rules are unfair and “backwards”, critics have said.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced the changes during his mini-budget on Friday morning and pledged to take punitive action on the working poor who top up their earnings with Universal Credit.

The Government’s “growth plan” threatens to subject more people than ever to intensive work coaching, with thousands of people who work and receive benefits set to be taken out of the light touch regime.

The light touch regime for higher earners receiving Universal Credit meant they did not need to attend work coach sessions or a Jobcentre to find better-paid work with the accompanying risk of being sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for failing to comply.

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SNP benefits spokesperson Kirsty Blackman said instead of helping the worst-off, the Government was “threatening to cut their family budgets further, with a new regime of benefit sanctions”.

She added: “The SNP have repeatedly urged the DWP to increase Universal Credit, axe the two-child cap, benefit cap, and bedroom tax, as well as scrap the five-week wait and turn the advance payment loan into a non-repayable grant once a person is deemed eligible for support.

“UK ministers have time and again refused to heed our calls.

"With independence, we can escape the broken Westminster system and their backwards thinking, as well as Tory governments we don't vote for, and progress further and faster on creating a fairer society in Scotland - where the rich aren't made richer on the backs of the poor."

How will the changes affect UC claimants? 

Prior to the changes, people who worked and earned less than £114 per week were required to attend weekly or fortnightly work coaching sessions aimed at helping them find better-paid work.

The new regime means anyone on less than £142.50 a week – some 120,000 people, according to the Government’s estimates – will need to attend these sessions or face having their benefits cut.

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Responding to the announcement in the Commons, Hilary Benn, the Labour MP for Leeds Central, demanded to know “how on earth” the plans were fair when contrasted with plans to allow bankers once again to have uncapped bonuses.

He added: “The Chancellor argues on the one hand, that those on the lowest incomes – people on Universal Credit – should face the threat of having their income reduced further, in order to boost economic growth.

“While on the other hand, he says to people already on the highest income – bankers – that they need an increase in their incomes through their bonuses in order to do the same.”

The Treasury said the measures will help more people find more work and better-paid employment.