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A poster against benefits sanctions in Salford.

People with mental health problems in Wales are being punished for their conditions by benefit sanctions – or the threat of them, according to research by a group of Christian churches.

Two-thirds of those who are sanctioned in Wales are unfit for work because of mental health problems – more than in the rest of the UK. It is likely that the sanctions add to the worry and stress which already cause terrible difficulty for these people.

The information is revealed in the Welsh Data Supplement to the report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions, which will be launched in the churches’ tent at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod on Wednesday (August 5), starting at 1pm. The event will hear the stories of some of those who have suffered from sanctions.

In his Preface to the report, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, states: “The results are shocking: large numbers of people, particularly those judged unfit for work due to mental health problems, are being punished … by the withholding of their income.”

Chair of Synod Cymru of the Methodist Church, Revd Jennifer Hurd, added, “Over a third of those who are told they may be sanctioned in fact find their sanction is cancelled because of a bureaucratic error. But in the meantime, they will have suffered additional unnecessary stress and anxiety, waiting to find out if their support is to be cut off.”

Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales, Revd Simon Walkling, said, “This is a shocking report, and confirms what churches find in their work on the ground with food banks, debt counselling services and other projects helping those in need in their communities. That is why our churches have said that in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, it is time to rethink benefit sanctions.”

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