A single JobCentre is responsible for stopping benefits to one in 20 of all the claimants in Scotland who have been “sanctioned”
The Dundee JobCentre has issued 8,999 so-called “sanctions” since 2012 - 2,300 more than the second-highest on the list, a JobCentre in Aberdeen.
Campaigners are demanding to know why the JobCentre Plus, in the Wellgate Shopping Centre, is responsible for so many sanctions.
They say the figures - five per cent of all sanctions imposed in the whole of Scotland - are “disturbing” and said stopping or cutting benefits risked plunging vulnerable people into crisis.
The number of sanctions has been falling year on year – with 382 handed out by the Wellgate JobCentre in the last year.
The Department for Work and Pensions said sanctions were used in only a small percentage of cases.
Mary Kinninmonth, director of Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “Sanctions have the potential to take someone who is just about getting by and topple them over the edge into homelessness and foodbank use – they must always be the very last resort.”
Campaigners are calling for answers after clients of a Dundee job centre were revealed as the most sanctioned in Scotland.
Critics say sanctions – stopping or cutting claimants’ benefits if they fail to meet agreed commitments, or miss appointments – can ompact on the lives of already vulnerable people.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) bosses have been urged to explain why the Dundee office has given out around 2,300 more than the second highest, Aberdeen’s Ebury House, and a staggering five per cent of all those issued nationwide.
Mary Kinninmonth, director of Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “It is cause for real concern that numbers are still so much higher in Dundee.
“Sanctions have the potential to take someone who is just about getting by and topple them over the edge into homelessness and foodbank use – they must always be the very last resort.
“These decisions have the power to put people immediately into crisis and we need to know whether these sanctions are handed out by regional interpretation or whether there is some kind of pattern to explain these figures for Dundee.”
Scottish Labour’s social security spokesman Mark Griffin MSP said: “These figures are deeply disturbing.
“The Tory government’s callous welfare reforms have hurt the poorest in society – and SNP austerity is only making that worse.
“This Dickensian approach to welfare must end.”
The number of sanctions issued in branches across Scotland has declined in recent years but campaigners say the most vulnerable people are still seeking out the support of charities.
Rizwan Rafik, from Dundee’s Taught By Muhammad foodbank, said: “We haven’t seen any decline in the number of people coming to us – in fact, last year was our busiest winter ever.
“People’s benefits are changing and when they do, they often have to wait weeks for the new payments to start.
“When that happens, they have really difficult choices to make – I don’t know what they would do if foodbanks weren’t able to step in.”
A spokeswoman for the DWP said the Wellgate office remained one of the largest in Scotland and the number of sanctions handed out was a reflection of this.
She added: “Sanctions are only used in a very small percentage of cases when people fail to meet their agreed commitments in return for benefits.
“It’s only fair to ask claimants to do their part, and there is a well-established system of payments available for people who need support to meet their immediate and most essential needs.”