The Social Security Advisory Committee is like Jiminy Cricket to the Government’s Pinocchio. Bringing together experts from fields such as law, charity, housing and public policy, its independent analysis should, ideally, act as a conscience for the much maligned Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

That is the role of its new report, on the issues for young people who live independently on benefits.

Under 26s are given a lower basic rate than other adult claimants. They are denied sufficient housing benefit to live anywhere but in shared accommodation. They are disproportionately sanctioned for breaching job centre rules. And where there is help and support available to them, they are often not told about it.

None of this is conducive, unsurprisingly, to helping them into work, the committee found. It suggests a more supportive model might be more effective.

The DWP’s policies are not driven by vindictiveness, but by a number of judgements and philosophies which the report suggests may be flawed. It assumes young people will have lower costs than older people, and it aims to ensure young people who are not working cannot expect better housing or easier choices than other young people, not in receipt of benefits.

But the system appears punitive, particularly to the young people themselves. The committee also found that many aspects of life for young claimants were more expensive. Meanwhile DWP rules mean the number of properties which young claimants can actually afford is severely limited – in some areas fewer than one in 100 rooms are affordable. In reality this means young people in cities such as Edinburgh risk rent arrears and eviction.

While Jobcentres have got better and more compassionate, the committee found, many young people still fear and avoid them, and view the use of sanctions as arbitrary and unfair. Sanctions and other elements of welfare “conditionality” are meant to ensure young people meet their side of the unwritten bargain which underpins modern welfare systems. This states that the Government will support you, so long as you, in return, look for work.

But the committee says while some sanctions may be justified,allowances could be made for young people who are just starting out in adult life.

At present, this is a problem mainly for the DWP, but as more control over welfare is devolved to Holyrood, such dilemmas will loom increasingly large for the Scottish Government too. It is not easy to balance challenge and support in helping those who are forced to rely on state support. But making people as uncomfortable as possible on benefits in order to drive them into employment, is not a new concept and it has never worked well. It is time to change tack: we need more carrot and less stick.