YORK council could extend its financial help scheme to give emergency cash handouts to people hit by unfair benefit sanctions.

The proposal has emerged in a report to Cllr Dafydd Williams, the cabinet member for finance and performance, after a massive increase in the number of people turning to foodbanks for help after their benefits werew cut.

According to evidence from Advice York - part of the Citizen's Advice Bureau - the number of people seeking help after their jobseekers allowance was cut has more than doubled in a year, and some people are facing "extreme difficulty" because of the sanctions regime introduced in autumn last year.

The York Financial Assistance Scheme (YFAS) gives emergency help to people faing a disaster or a crisis, but at the moment only offers foodbank vouchers to people struggling because of benefit sanctions.

In just three months of 2013/14, YFAS gave out 24 foodbank vouchers in those circumstances, and the Advice York evidence said some sanctions are applied unfairly.

Their written submissions says: "The inappropriate or incorrect use of sanctions is causing long lasting hardship and pushing people into poverty. Foodbank vouchers, although some help, are not the solution to the problem due to their limited nature and the fact that there are other essential living costs that need to be met."

The Advice York data goes on to say: "The evidence shows that rather than encouraging clients into employment, the way sanctions are currently applied, discourages and gets in the way of people applying for jobs and can result in hardship once employment is found. Rather than incentivising employment, sanctions are debilitating it.

"Where a sanction has been given to a client that is unfair, we would recommend that YFAS supports the client until their reconsideration/appeal is complete so that residents do not face the impacts of extreme poverty Now council officials are recommending YFAS change to help people with unfair benefit sanctions while they challenge the DWP of Jobcentre decision."

Cllr Williams will decide whether to follow officials' advice and extend YFAS to help when benefit sanctions have been cut at a decision session on Thursday, May 29.