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Of course benefit sanctions are intended to hurt people – any form of punishment does that.

They are the stick the Tory government uses to beat the vulnerable unemployed, who must comply with ridiculous demands or lose money.

The words of Tahira Sharif simply don’t ring true.

Too many thousands of people have died while claiming state benefits under the current, Conservative-controlled regime, for any claim that Job Centre staff are “supporting” people ever to be taken seriously – until a new government takes over and completely changes the system.

For those of us who toil under the current draconian system, that change cannot come soon enough.

A senior manager at the Department for Work and Pensions in Scotland has claimed benefit sanctions are “not the norm” and defended staff, insisting “it’s not about hurting people”.

Operations manager Tahira Sharif, who oversees five job centres north of the border, said she and her team have tried to implement the changes “in a supportive way” and their aim is to prevent people being penalised.

Job seekers can have benefits cut or stopped if they fail to adhere to a strict Claimant Commitment set out by job centre staff, who are now known as work coaches. Work coaches can make a sanction referral if people are late to appointments or don’t apply for jobs the coach flags up.

The practice has been criticised by charities who work with people facing hardship and was brought into sharp focus by Bafta award-winning film I, Daniel Blake, penned by Scots screenwriter Paul Laverty and directed by Ken Loach.

Sharif said sanctions are “there for a purpose” and will be used when people on benefits are unable to meet their “obligations”.

Read more: Benefit sanctions “not about hurting people” insists boss of Scots job centres

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