Caseworkers in Scotland fear a rise in violent and traumatic episodes as April's benefit cuts loom, a senior union official warned today.
PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson told the Star that members faced "increasing despair" among benefit claimants.
The union, which includes staff at Jobcentre Plus, the Child Support Agency and the pension service, led a national strike this week to protest against cuts to pay and pensions.
But the strikers are also battling deep cuts to benefit payments that they themselves are expected to enforce from next month.
From April 1 those in social housing will lose up to 24 per cent of their housing benefit if their home is "under occupied."
Meanwhile increases for a host of benefit payments will be capped at just 1 per cent per year, despite inflation projected to rise three times as fast.
Ms Henderson told the said she was concerned by a spate of self-harm in England last year.
In December a Torbay teen set himself alight in a council office after reportedly being refused housing, while a Birmingham man set himself on fire in protest outside a Jobcentre Plus office in June and another man attempted suicide at a Birkenhead job centre in May.
In April the DWP itself circulated a later-leaked all-staff memo urging "the utmost care and sensitivity" from caseworkers following the attempted suicide of a man who lost his sickness benefit the previous week.
"Incidents of this kind are thankfully rare, but it does remind us of the responsibility we have, and influence we have, over the lives of those we provide help to," it continued.
Ms Henderson said she feared the crisis would spread to Scotland.
"Our members in the DWP and HM Revenue and Customs have seen increasing despair from clients.
"They understand the stress clients are under. Up to 40 per cent of DWP staff delivering universal credit will be on universal credit themselves."
But the union had allied with the Black Triangle Campaign and Disabled People Against Cuts to stop the grisly headlines from reaching Scotland.
"We believe in the legitimacy of protest," she said.
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