A Helensburgh man trying to regain confidence after suffering panic attacks says a "ridiculous edict" from the Department of Work and Pensions is stopping him doing from voluntary work in a church garden.

|The 51-year-old who asked not to be named has banded as "totally illogical" a rule stating he would lose benefits if he was found volunteering defied logic.

He told the Advertiser that he was instructed in a phone call from the DWP not to do voluntary work if he wanted to protect his Employment Support Allowance.

He said: "Doing some simple tasks around the parish church garden would help me overcome my agoraphobia and give me confidence to get out and about and socialise with people.

"I hardly get out as it is - usually about once a week, but I don't like crowds of people, so I thought the garden would be a good place to start.

"Someone told the DWP I was considering doing this and they [DWP] phoned me. It's a mystery who told them because I hardly know anyone and didn't tell anyone.

"They seem to think if you are fit to volunteer then you are fit to work".

"I don't sign on or look for work because I never know if I can get out the house because of my agoraphobia.

The Burgh resident attends the Recovery Cafe held by the Welcome In group in the parish church halls.

The cafe provides a meeting place for people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, mental health issues or loneliness.

Meanwhile, Helensburgh woman recovering from mental health issues who also attends the cafe, said her hopes of doing voluntary gardening work in the grounds of Geilston House at Cardross had also been thwarted by the DWP.

She told the Advertiser: "The DWP told me if I did volunteer work with the National Trust for Scotland at Geilston I might lose my Employment Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment.

"I just can't risk losing that money."

Diana Wilson, treasurer at the Recovery Cafe, said Welcome In hoped to meet with a DWP representative in the hope of clarifying a "grey area".

She said: "Volunteering improves your wellbeing and is very therapeutic. If you can put on your CV you are a volunteer an employer will look favourably on you.

"They will know you are not sitting watching daytime TV all the time. People's self esteem goes down if they are sitting in the house not doing anything.

"By volunteering, you are helping your community. At Welcome In, we are trying to re-introduce people into society to improve their lives.

"There is a natural progression from volunteering to employment. People have to learn social interaction and you need these skills if you are going to join a team at work."

A spokesman for the DWP said they would he happy to meet people attending the Recovery Cafe.

He added: “Volunteering can be a fantastic way for people to gain skills and confidence as well as staying active and meeting people. And people can volunteer and claim benefits.

“We have a close relationship with the team at Recovery Café.

"We carry their promotional leaflets and actively promote the value of volunteering to people who may be interested.

"We’re very happy to meet them and would encourage anyone who has a question about volunteering to contact us.”