Out-of-work benefits were stripped from 5,590 people across Bradford in the first eight months of tougher Government punishments for failing to try and find work, new figures show.

And statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions, under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal 20 of those were given the highest-level sanctions for flouting rules three times or more, which could mean they lose their Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for three years.

The new punishments, introduced in October 2012 as part of a Government crackdown on a “something for nothing” culture, sees claimants docked benefits for missing jobcentre appointments or by avoiding finding a job.

The figures show jobcentres across Bradford imposed 7,400 sanctions on 5,590 people from when the rules were imposed on October 22, 2012, until June 30, 2013 – an increase of almost 17 per cent on the same period the previous year.

In Bradford, 3,050 people received the lowest sanction, while 2,070 have been hit with an intermediate punishment and 470 with the highest: l a low-level sanction results in the loss of JSA for up to 13 weeks, but it restarts afterwards l an intermediate sanction for failures, such as not actively seeking a job or being available for work, results in benefit initially being lost for a month, or 13 weeks for subsequently breaking the rules. Claimants must then reapply.

l the highest sanction sees JSA withdrawn for 13 weeks, for example when someone leaves a job voluntarily. This then rises to 26 weeks for a second failure or 156 weeks for a third.

Of the 7,400 sanctions issued in Bradford, 3,380 were given to people aged 18 to 25, 3,030 to 26 to 45-year-olds and 980 to 46 to 64-year-olds.

In total, 190 punishments were appealed and 930 were reconsidered. There was no appeal or reconsideration in the remaining cases.

Decisions can be overturned if the claimant can provide reasonable evidence, such as a doctor’s note to prove sickness to explain why an appointment was missed.

Philip Davies MP (Con, Shipley) said he didn’t know how the effectiveness of the new sanctions could be measured, but they had been introduced for “fairness”.

He added: “I do believe there should be a safety net for people – I believe in the welfare state and being there for people who fall on hard times – but it is right to make sure those on JSA are fulfilling their side of the bargain.

“If people aren’t pulling their weight and doing what’s expected of them, they should face a sanction.”

Esther McVey, the Employment Minister, has previously hailed statistics as proof the Department for Work and Pensions was ending the “something for nothing” culture.