Benefit sanctions are likely to be a hot topic in the run up to May's General Election.

The coalition Government's policy of greatly increasing the number of people having their benefits stopped for alleged breaches of the rules has regularly come under fire, with the proportion of claimants sanctioned having doubled since 2010. Of late however, the concern voiced about the policy has become ever louder and more insistent.

A report from the homelessness charity Crisis last week revealed the counter-intuitive news that Aberdeenshire is the highest areas for sanctions in Scotland, with 10 sanctions per 100 claimants, followed by Clackmannanshire with 9.7 and East Renfrewshire with 9.1 per 100.

Whether this is a good measure of the impact of sanctions is questionable, but Crisis said it highlight a postcode lottery of 'hotspots', and argues the regime is flawed and punitive, causing devastating poverty and ill health, with large numbers of unfair or inappropriate decisions.

Earlier in the month five churches, including the Church of Scotland called for a full and independent review of sanctions, which they described in a joint report as 'punitive, inhumane and unChristian'.

At about the same time Grantham MP Nick Boles was forced into a spectacular volte face. Having told his local paper that sanctions were a worry and needed to be looked at, and in some cases were 'inhumanly inflexible", the Tory was required to issue a contrite clarification, pointing out that he is a 'strong supporter' of sanctions.

Dr David Webster, of Glasgow University, publishes regular analysis of the sanctions regime.

His most recent overview calculated that one dependant child is affected for approximately every six Job Seekers' Allowance claimants sanctioned.

But his biggest concern is the introduction of Mandatory Reconsideration in 2013, a system which delays appeals until an internal reassessment by the DWP has taken place. His figures show this may be disadvantaging claimants of Employment and Support Allowance - for sick or disabled people - in a way that he thinks could amount to disability discrimination.

Westminster's Work and Pensions Committee has been taking evidence on sanctions and its report is imminent. Conservative MPs do not have a majority on the committee and even some of them are believed to have been swayed by the level of evidence submitted in writing and in person about the punitive and erratic nature of the sanctions policy.

Given Mr Boles experience, it seems likely that considerable behind the scenes arm-twisting may be going on to ensure the report is not too critical of the Government's policy. It may not be enough.