By Bill Heaney

Figures published this week show that the number of young Scots aged 18 to 24 sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions has nearly doubled since 2019.

Benefit sanctions – payment delayed or withdrawn entirely – can be imposed for turning up late or not at all for an appointment.

Sleeping in or missing a bus or train are  frequently given excuses for this.

MSP Natalie Don told the Scottish Parliament: “That is more than 2,500 young people being denied vital support in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

“Does the First Minister share my view that that is immoral and that the welfare system should be there to support people, not penalise them?”

Nicola Sturgeon, pictured left,  told her: “Yes, I do. Natalie Don is absolutely right to raise the issue. Those figures are really alarming.

“They are DWP figures and they show that the universal credit sanction rate is more than double the pre-pandemic level, with more than 42,000 sanctions being applied across all claims in July this year.

“The data also shows that sanctions are applied most to young people between the ages of 18 and 24.

“Despite substantial evidence showing that sanctions simply do not work and that they have long-term detrimental effects, the United Kingdom Government’s sanctions policy is pushing more people into hardship and doing that during a cost of living crisis.

“I take the opportunity to call on the UK Government to urgently review its sanctions policy along with the other punitive policies within the universal credit system such as the five-week wait, the two-child limit and the benefit cap, and to focus instead on supporting people rather than punishing them when they are already struggling so much.”

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