THE UK Government has been accused of “failing Scotland’s young people” after newly released statistics showed a surge in benefit sanctions.

Data obtained by the SNP found the number of 18-24-year-olds having their Universal Credit restricted jumped from 1398 in 2019 (the last comparable year) to 2544 in just three years.

That’s an increase from 3.5% of all cases to 4.3% as the overall UC caseload nearly doubled in the same time period.

All claimants in Scotland are now being sanctioned at least at the same rate or higher than they were pre-pandemic.

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SNP MSP Natalie Don said the figures showed how the UK Government was undermining anti-poverty measures taken by the Scottish Government.

The convenor of Holyrood's Social Justice and Social Security Committee said: “These latest sanctions stats are appalling but sadly not shocking as they highlight a Westminster government we know to be profoundly failing – failing Scotland’s young people, failing struggling households and failing to take any meaningful action to help the people that need it most through a Tory cost of living crisis.

“It is no coincidence that these shameful figures come within days of the news that foodbank use has hit record highs and years of Westminster cuts have led to families experiencing the biggest deterioration in living standards in ten years – people across Scotland are being forced to suffer the brutal impact of Tory policies and governments that Scotland didn’t vote for.

“While the SNP takes bold action to support households across Scotland – with policies like the Scottish Child Payment which has been hailed by anti-poverty campaigners as game changing and a watershed moment – our progress is consistently being undermined by cruel Westminster policies and the only way to build a fairer society for everyone is for Scotland to become an independent country.”

Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, told The National: “A rise in sanctions will mean a rise in young people being pushed into homelessness.

“Young people in Scotland are already contending with high housing costs, rising food prices, historically high levels of inflation and skyrocketing energy bills. To ratchet up sanctions during a cost of living emergency will only make things harder for them. This approach is not just cruel – it is counter-productive too.

“No one at risk of homelessness should be sanctioned. People are already struggling, and instead of punishing young people our social security system should work to protect them from hardship and homelessness, and support them to realise their potential.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has faced increasing scrutiny over its sanctions system which has been accused of being too harsh.

The UK department said it had already reduced the maximum amount that can be deducted from a Universal Credit award twice in recent years.

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But the surge comes just as the Office for Budget Responsibility reports that the UK is now in recession amid spiralling inflation.

A DWP spokesperson said: “People are only sanctioned if they fail, without good reason, to meet the conditions they agree, and emphasis is placed on protecting vulnerable claimants.

“Our priority is to help people to find and stay in work and the latest figures show the majority of sanctions were applied due to claimants failing to attend mandatory appointments with their Work Coach.

“If a claimant disagrees with a sanction, they can ask for this to be reconsidered and can appeal to an independent tribunal.”