Scots ‘living in constant fear’ of further welfare cuts
Many people accessing benefits are living in constant fear that further cuts will push them into “crisis situations”, a new study has found.
The Welfare Reform Tracking Study by Edinburgh Napier University, which looks at on-going changes to working age benefits, revealed all respondents, including those in work, found themselves in very difficult financial situations and therefore felt an underlying sense of ‘precariousness’. Many were anxious that changes to their circumstances or entitlements would push them into crisis situations.
In addition to this many participants said they received poor and sometimes conflicting communications from benefits agencies and there was a lack of clarity over information that was provided, bringing extra stress and uncertainty.
Disabled participants also felt they had to present themselves in a negative light and focus on their limitations rather than their capabilities, while the challenges of work capability assessments and repeat assessments for people with permanent disabilities were also highlighted.
Social justice secretary Alex Neil expressed concern at the further suffering and negative impact that will be caused if the UK government carries out proposed £12 billion cuts to benefits.
He said he was worried that Scotland’s most vulnerable people would be pushed further into poverty and desperation.
Mr Neil said the findings of the study outlined exactly why the UK government should urgently rethink their plans to further cut the welfare budget.
He said: “The UK government’s austerity agenda and benefit cuts are having a very damaging effect on people in Scotland. Their approach is slashing the incomes of some of our poorest households and pushing 100,000 children into poverty.
“The Welfare Reform Tracking Study is further evidence that people are living in constant anxiety about changes to their entitlements and are already suffering from the effects of around £6 billion of cuts taken from Scottish Welfare expenditure over the last five years. This is hugely concerning as the UK Government should be looking to lift people out of poverty not push them further into it.
“Despite these frustrations we will do all we can to use our new powers to make our system fairer and simpler and work to improve the experience for people.
“We will work quickly to implement these changes and base our social security system on how best to support people and tackle inequalities and not on crude opportunities to save money.”
However, a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said the reforms were about giving people peace of mind.
He added: “Reforms to welfare are designed to help people into work, giving more people the peace of mind and security that comes with a steady income - there are now near record numbers of people in Scotland in a job.
“The government provides a safety net to support millions of people who are unemployed or on low incomes, spending £94bn a year across the UK on working age benefits.”
The Scottish Government commissioned Edinburgh Napier University to carry out the Welfare Reform Tracking Study with interviews with participants carried out between September 2013 and March 2015.
Meanwhile a leaked DWP document has confirmed that the Tory plan to lower the household benefit cap could put a further 40,000 children on or below the poverty line.
The leaked document – reported in the Guardian – states that if parents are unable to find extra work “Around 40,000 more…children might, in the absence of any behaviour change, find themselves in poverty as a result of reducing the cap to £23,000”.