A CHARITY says it is concerned at the level of “completely unreasonable” benefits sanctions being imposed.

The Yorkshire Dales district of Richmondshire has the highest percentage of benefits sanctions imposed in the country, whilst Hambleton has the tenth highest rate in the country.

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for the two districts says it is concerned at the way sanctions were being imposed in the two districts.

With unemployment benefits being withdrawn for weeks at a time, the CAB often has to refer the clients to local foodbanks so they can feed themselves or their families, as well as offer debt and other advice.

Service manager at Hambleton and Richmondshire CAB, Simon Farquhar said they had dealt with one client who had a job interview which clashed with a job centre appointment.

He said the client rang the job centre to explain why they could not attend, but were still sanctioned. The client was offered the job but had weeks with no income while waiting to start.

Mr Farquhar said this was just one example that had concerned them.

“We see many sanctions where it’s completely unreasonable to sanction them,” he said.

“Equally you see it being used when people just haven’t turned up or they’ve done something – in which case we explain to them why that’s been done. But equally you see sanctions imposed where there aren’t real reasons for the sanctions.”

A recent report by homelessness charity Crisis said 15.4 per cent of jobseekers in Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, had been sanctioned, making claimants there three times more likely to have their benefits stopped than in its southern Yorkshire Dales neighbour Craven.

It found just 6.2 per cent of claimants in Richmondshire's northern neighbour Durham had been sanctioned, while 10.9 per cent of claimants in Hambleton had had their benefits stopped.

Mr Farquhar said Richmondshire and Hambleton have relatively low numbers of jobseekers. But when national statistics were collated it became clear the discretionary process of sanctions was being used in a higher percentage of cases in the North Yorkshire districts.

Bureau manager Carol Shreeve said the statistics would suggest quotas or targets for imposing benefits sanctions were in operation, something the Department for Work and Pensions has repeatedly denied.

She said there were other factors such as the lack of rural transport and erratic nature of employment in farming communities which could impact, but this did not explain the scale of the sanctions.

A DWP spokesman said: “We’ve been very clear that Jobcentre Plus has no targets for sanctions and the number of sanctions across the UK is falling. Jobseekers’ responsibilities to look for work are explained clearly at the start of their claim.

“Claimants can always ask us to look at the sanction decision again, and people who are in genuine need can apply for hardship payments.”