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'Benefit staff enjoy stopping payments'

Job Centre staff seem to enjoy meting out sanctions to people on benefits, such as stopping payments for breaking rules, a report claims.

Punishments are often for breaches of unclear or contradictory instructions, and benefits are stopped for trivial reasons, it says.

The strongly worded attack from a leading advice charity conflicts with the official line on benefit sanctions from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which has always insisted such measures are only used as a last resort.

The analysis published by West Dunbartonshire Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) is based on the cases brought to its own volunteer advisors and those from CABs in Alexandria and Clydebank.

Margaret Lynch, chief executive of Citizen's Advice Scotland (CAS) said it reflected the findings of bureaux all over Scotland.

The findings are to be sent to both UK Welfare Minister Lord Freud and the Scottish Secretary.

It claims the vast majority of local people on benefits and tax credits are either in work, have worked, or are looking for work.

"In our view, these harsh and often cruel reforms are battering populations who are least able to cope," the report says.

A DWP spokeswoman said: "We provide jobseekers with the help they need to find a job, but it is only fair that in return they live up to their part of the contract.

"Sanctions are used as a last resort and anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal."

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