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"Stark reality" of UK Government welfare cuts

Published: 29 Jun 2017 11:16

New report examines evidence of impact in Scotland.

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said today that women, disabled people and young people would be those disproportionately affected by damaging UK Government welfare cuts.

The Minister was commenting on a Scottish Government report detailing the impact of UK Government welfare cuts on people across Scotland published today.

The statutory report, which was submitted to the Scottish Parliament, estimates the impact of all welfare measures passed by the UK Government between 2010 and 2017 drawing upon independent analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Based on the latest forecasts, it is expected that the UK Government annual social security spend in Scotland will reduce by £3.9 billion by 2020/21. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people have lost or will lose some of their benefit payments.

Local authority level analysis suggests that West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Dundee, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire will see the most significant falls in welfare spending by 2020/21 relative to their working-age population size.

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said: “This report presents the stark reality of the UK Government’s austerity programme which imposes unjust welfare cuts that not only continue to cause misery and push more people into poverty, but also directly affect local economies across Scotland and attract international criticism.

“These cuts are damaging our people and they are harmful to our communities.  Every pound taken away from those entitled to financial support not only affects those individuals and their families, it is also a pound less that is spent locally.

“Shockingly, with many of the harshest cuts still to come, the reforms will reduce spending on welfare in Scotland by nearly £4 billion a year by the end of this decade.  This is in addition to the 9.2% (or £2.9 billion) real terms cuts between 2010-11 and 2019-20 that the Scottish Government will see in the day-to-day budget that pays for public services - and that is before the further £3.5 billion of cuts that are expected to be applied to public spending across the UK in 2019-20.

“That will obviously have an impact on the amount of money the Scottish Government has available within its budget to spend.  And while we have used over £350 million since 2013/14 to mitigate against the worst damage, it is simply not possible to for us to mitigate all of the UK Government’s welfare cuts without major reductions in our expenditure in other vital public services, in growing our economy and in providing real opportunity to our young people

“The UK Government is responsible for all of this damage to individual lives and local communities and we will continue to use every opportunity to press the UK Government to reverse these unjust policies.  They need to recognise that social security is the foundation of a just and decent society and that everyone, no matter their social or economic status, deserves to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. ”

Today the Scottish Government laid regulations in the Scottish Parliament to help people by making their Universal Credit payments more flexible.  

The regulations, which represent the first use of the new devolved social security powers, will give Universal Credit claimants in Scotland the option of :

  • being paid Universal Credit twice a month rather than monthly
  • having their Universal Credit housing element being paid directly to landlords

Welcoming this, Ms Freeman continued:

“We have consistently said the new social security system in Scotland will treat everyone with dignity, fairness and respect.  Introducing this flexible approach to Universal Credit demonstrates this and I look forward to the new regulations coming into force and making life that little bit easier for a number of people.”

The flexibilities will come in to force on 4 October 2017 and, because Universal credit remains a reserved UK Government benefit,  will be delivered by the DWP on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Background

This year the Scottish Government will spend around £454 million on measures that either directly mitigate the changes introduced by the Act or are part of wider measures tackling poverty in Scotland.

Scottish Ministers are required by the Scottish Parliament to report annually on the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Act 2012.

The report is published here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/06/6808 

Following this publication, a series of shorter reports will be published later this year focusing on groups who are particularly affected by UK Government welfare cuts. The reports will cover the impact on children and families, people with disabilities and the impact of welfare reform on homes and housing. 

Universal Credit remains a reserved benefit.  In January the Scottish Government committed to introducing flexibilities for Universal Credit. More detail can be found here: https://news.gov.scot/news/scottish-flexibilities-for-universal-credit

The Universal Credit (Claims and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 can be viewed here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/

The Scottish Government’s also today published its response to the Consultation on Universal Credit (Claims and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 2017, which can be viewed here: http://gov.scot/Publications/2017/06/8512