CALLOUS sanctions handed out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to  Universal Credit (UC) claimants across the UK have reached a new peak of 6.86%, new figures have shown.

The statistics released on Tuesday also revealed nearly 100,000 sanctions have been handed out to UC claimants in Scotland since May 2016.

Sanction rates have sharply increased since the pandemic began in 2020, from 2.51% of claimants in Scotland, England and Wales being sanctioned to almost 7% in new record levels.

The SNP’s Social Justice spokesperson, David Linden, said the shocking figures show the stark difference between Scotland and the UK when it comes to social security.

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He said: “The DWP’s sanction regime sums up the callous approach the Tories take to social security. Instead of providing a robust safety net for millions of households, the surge in sanctions demonstrates the uncaring approach of the UK government which is pushing people further into poverty during a cost-of-living crisis created by the Tories.

“It is a tale of two governments for the people of Scotland as the Scottish Government’s social security and employability system does not hand out sanctions and works for the people through fairness, dignity and respect, whereas the callous UK Government works against the people who need it most.

“The Scottish Government has provided support that has been described as game-changing by anti-poverty charities, such as the Scottish Child Payment. But it is having one hand tied behind its back by a UK Government motivated more by cuts than by supporting people.

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“The only way Scotland can begin to build a fairer, more equal Scotland is by becoming an independent country.”

Earlier this month new rules came into force that could mean more than 120,000 people will have to look for more work or better-paid work to avoid benefit sanctions.

The rules raised the minimum hours claimants have to work in order to receive their full benefit.

Claimants will now have to work a minimum of 15 hours to demonstrate they are job hunting, up from 12 hours.

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 find and move into work and the latest figures show the majority of sanctions were applied due to claimants failing to attend mandatory appointments.

“Sanctions can often quickly be resolved by re-engaging with the Jobcentre and attending the next appointment.”