Survey shows bleak outlook for people on benefits
Over a third of benefit claimants say they struggle to survive on the cash they receive.
A survey by Citizens Advice Scotland shows people on benefits regularly need the help of family, friends or foodbanks to help them get through the month financially.
The figures were published as CAS set out its vision of how Scotland’s new social security system should work, after the devolution of new powers through the Scotland bill.
The report, Fair, Equal and Responsive, sets out six key principles for the new service and also identifies some of the specific areas where gaps need to be filled.
These include a fairer assessment system for disability benefits, more flexibility in the Universal Credit system and easier access to emergency funeral payments and cold weather payments.
We have argued strongly for social security powers to come to Scotland
CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said: “As Scotland’s largest advice provider for social security issues, we have seen clearer than any other agency the devastating impact of tough new policies like the fitness assessments and the bedroom tax.
“That’s why we have argued strongly for social security powers to come to Scotland so that we can devise a new system that works better for people who are in need.
“The devolution of some of these powers is imminent, and this presents an opportunity to begin to craft that fair, equal and responsive social security system that Scotland needs. But transferring the powers is not enough in itself.
“We have to make sure that those powers are used properly, and that is why we are setting out our vision.”
Evidence from CAS suggests there is a lot of room for improvement in the current system.
In the survey of 601 claimants, over a third were regularly running out of money and having to turn to friends/family or to food banks for support.
Disability benefit claimants told of the struggles they had in claiming their entitlement and their frustration at the language used when governments talk about benefits.
McPhee added: “We have been encouraged by the Scottish Government’s willingness to engage with stakeholders and with the people that will be most affected by the choices that they make.
“We would like this to continue as high level visions turn into policy and then into practice.”