IAIN Duncan Smith’s own advisers have warned him to soften his stance on cracking down on benefits after evidence indicated that it could push people into crime or prostitution, it has been reported.

Advisers have warned the work and pensions secretary to curb punishments on people deemed to be unwilling to work, according to national media reports.

It is claimed that the Social Security Advisory Committee, the Whitehall body responsible for monitoring the welfare reforms, heard evidence that vulnerable people could be driven out of mainstream society by the strict sanctions.

Under the new Universal Credit scheme which replaces the various different benefits currently offered, the unemployed will lose their jobseeker’s allowance for up to three years if they are believed to have failed to attend job interviews, accept job offers or carry out unpaid work experience.

The committee suggested that the government should return benefits to those who, after receiving the sanction, then demonstrate they want to return to work.

The committee told Duncan Smith it had heard evidence people fear turning to crime and prostitution to support themselves if the punishment remains unchanged.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman quoted in online reports rejected the claim and said only those who do not abide by the rules will be sanctioned.

He reiterated that all jobseekers would be given individual help and support to find work.