We won't use sanctions in our work programmes, promises SNP

Holyrood will set up ‘voluntary programmes that will treat people with dignity and respect’

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The Scottish Government has pledged not to impose sanctions on unemployed people enrolled in their work programmes.

Responsibility for work programmes will be devolved from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in Westminster to the SNP government in Holyrood in April 2017.

For the first time, Scottish ministers will be able to design their own employment services for disabled people and those at risk of long-term unemployment.

However, the SNP administration will not have the power over sanctions - which is when a job seeker’s benefits can be reduced as a result of non-compliance to the requirements of a work programme.

Employability and Training Minister Jamie Hepburn said the Scottish government would set up "voluntary programmes that will treat people with dignity and respect".

Speaking ahead of a debate on how the Scottish Government will approach this, Mr Hepburn said: "Employability programmes should be seen as a way of helping people develop and get into work.

"Instead, the UK Government's approach to sanctions and conditionality has all too often turned them into a threat rather than an enabling process about working with the individual to get into employment.

"While we will not receive powers over sanctions, we want to do what we can to protect those particularly affected, including young people, the disabled and lone parents, from this unfair treatment and stress."

Responding to Mr Hepburn's criticism of the use of sanctions, the DWP said: "Sanctions are an important part of our benefits system and it is right that they are in place for those few who do not fulfill their commitment to find work."