THE Citizens Advice Bureau has today (Monday) called for an urgent rethink on "tough" government sanctions after a huge rise in cases.
CAB advisers on the Isle of Wight say they have seen a 120 per cent increase in cases — almost double the national rate — compared to the same period last year.
Sanctions, starting with a minimum withdrawal of benefits for four weeks, are given to people claiming support, such as Jobseeker's Allowance, when they miss an appointment or are thought to be not doing enough to find work.
Lee Hodgson, chief officer of the Isle of Wight CAB, said the sanctioning system was made significantly tougher last year, with some claimants now facing the removal of financial support for up to three years, and a minimum of four weeks, while they look for work.
The charity warned that many people have no idea why their support is withdrawn while others have been punished for attending a job interview, rather than visiting a Jobcentre.
Mr Hodgson said: "Harsh and badly applied sanctions are one of the biggest issues facing people on the Isle of Wight and the national rise of 64 per cent since last year shows we are not alone in facing this problem.
"In many cases, the sanctions are making it even harder for them to find work.
"Many families on the Isle of Wight are struggling to make ends meet and to face an undeserved and excessive punishment adds insult to injury.
"Many we see in our bureau do not know why they have had their support taken away because of poor communication from the Jobcentre.
"For many people with difficult health conditions, the requirements imposed by this system are unrealistic and set many people up for a fall.
"When people looking for work have essential support taken away unfairly, the knock-on effects for their family can be hugely damaging.
"Stress, rent arrears and even homelessness can be the result of sanctions, which makes the task of finding a job even more insurmountable.
"Ministers must urgently look again at how they give support to people trying to get back into work."
If you have been affected by this issue please contact us via the email address below.