LAST year David Clapson had his benefits stopped. The 59-year-old former British soldier was found dead at home. The fridge where he stored his insulin wasn't working because his electricity had been cut off. His bank account showed just £3.44. An autopsy revealed that his stomach was empty.

Nick Hodgkinson, programme manager at Bradford's Community Advice Network, an umbrella organisation of 27 advice charities, fears that inflexible application of the new work search rule for the unemployed deemed to be lacking motivation in applying for jobs, risks more cases like this.

The Department of Work and Pensions chose Bradford to road-test the scheme. From next month selected Job Seekers' Allowance claimants will be obliged to visit a Job Centre five days a week and spend 35 hours looking for work. Failure to do so will result in them being 'sanctioned' - their benefits will be summarily stopped for three months.

A single unemployed person gets £72.40pw. That’s got to cover food, gas, electricity, water, telephone, clothes, bus fares and the unexpected. It’s hard to cope on that amount for more than a few months. Mr Hodginson said the overwhelming majority of unemployed people seen by advice charities really want paid jobs and work hard to find them.

He said: "But it’s tough out there. It’s good that the national economy is picking up but here in Bradford, it’s a slow process. There are 14,500 local people on Jobseekers' Allowance. The unemployment rate here is 4.5% compared to 2.4% in the UK as a whole. Among young people, it’s 7.5% compared to 3.9% nationally.

"If it’s nearly twice as hard to find a job here than in the rest of country, you have to ask: why is the government introducing this new rule in Bradford? We’ve got brilliant entrepreneurs and highly qualified young people. But the global financial crash and government austerity policies make it really hard for thousands of people to find work.

"What are people supposed to do if there just aren’t enough jobs? How are people meant to prove that they’ve spent 35 hours looking for work? Will the Job Centre be reasonable about what it’s actually possible to do? Will they take into account those things that disrupt everyone’s lives – like being ill or having problems with childcare?

"Our advisers already deal with an unprecedented number of benefit sanctions. We’re worried there will be even more. From October 2012 to March 2014, 17,775 sanctions were applied in Bradford district. That’s a 31% increase on the equivalent previous period.

"The overall rate of sanctions is also higher here (53%) than in the UK as whole (46%). Why? Sanctions are not just a ‘rap on the knuckles’. They leave people with no money at all – relying on friends, family or food banks to survive. How does making people hungry and desperate help them find a job?"

Last year Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank gave out bags of food to the value of £100,000. The total number of bags given out for the entirety of this year is expected to top 10,000 - almost the same number as there are on Jobseeker's Allowance.

"Employers across Bradford need to give unemployed people a chance to get work. We’re doing our bit in local advice charities by giving young unemployed people and volunteers work experience. We’re part of the Employment Opportunities Fund and we urge other employers to join in," Mr Hodgkinson added.

This particular £6m fund has supplied 400 people aged from 18 to 50-plus, including the disabled, with 52-week work placements. Partly paid for by the Department of Work and Pensions, Bradford Council and Incommunities housing trust, this scheme ends this year; but it has been combined with another scheme called Headstart through Leeds City Region which runs until October 2015.

Will Jennings, Incommunities project manager for both schemes, said: "Headstart applies to 18 to 24-year-olds who have been unemployed for six months. We still have 200 places to fill. The deadline for recruitment is March, 2015.

"People in work find it easier to get a job because they can demonstrate commitment and experience. If you haven't got a job the stigma is there.

"Checks show that 220 people who left the original EOFscheme up to July this year, 80 per cent of them did not return to the unemployment register."

Nick Hodgkinson said: "We encourage anyone who gets sanctioned, or is worried about the new rule, to go to a local advice charity. We’re all over Bradford district and you can find us online at or you can ring us on 08442 451282."

Would-be applicants for the 200 Headstart work experience placements must be referred by their Job Centre Plus advisor. Each placement runs for 30 weeks.