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New figures showing that thousands of Scottish children are paying the price for the government’s punitive benefit sanctions regime have been branded as “grossly unfair”.

Figures based upon a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Church Action on Poverty, show that 3,600 Scottish families with dependent children were affected by benefit sanctions between June 2012 and May 2013.

At least 6,460 Scottish children were affected during this time, with the government’s savage and vindictive welfare cuts inflicting unprecedented hardship upon some of the poorest people in society.

The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre now believe that, based upon these figures, a further 3,023 households with dependent children could have been affected by adverse sanction decisions between October 2013 and September 2014.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) initially denied the existence of figures showing the extent to which benefit sanctions were affecting children, despite having answered a previous FoI on the subject.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “This new research by SPICe shows that thousands of children are continuing to pay the price for welfare sanctions.

“Children cannot possibly be held responsible for whether their parents are sanctioned or not, but as things stand thousands of them are paying the price.

“It is just another example of a sanctions regime that time after time has shown itself to be grossly unfair.

“There must be an independent inquiry into Westminster’s sanctions regime that seems to be running out of control and the SNP will continue to press that case.

“Westminster’s complacent attitude to the savage welfare cuts that are inflicting such hardship on so many people underlines why we need the opportunity to make our own welfare decisions in Scotland – and electing a strong team of SNP MPs in May will help us gain that responsibility.”

A report by a coalition of major charities revealed earlier this month that around 100,000 children across the UK were affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), who include DWP staff among their members, estimate that the cost to claimants of having their benefits stopped by sanctions has rocketed by 3,000% since 2010.

Benefit sanctions and delays have also been blamed for a surge in food bank users.

A new study found that vulnerable people who fall foul of benefit sanctions can be plunged into a reliance on food banks for up to half a year.

Labour says it will seek to slash the number of food banks operating in the UK if it comes to power.