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Benefits system is failing says Scottish Government report

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Child poverty charity says Westminster and Scottish governments need to do more to help poor families who can't survive on benefits

John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group Scotland
John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group Scotland

The benefits system is not meeting people’s financial needs according to a new Scottish Government report.

The study on the impact of welfare reforms on 43 individuals across Scotland has found that people find it hard to decide which essential household items they should spend their limited income on.

The hardship caused by delays and mistakes, and the fundamental inadequacy of current benefit levels described in this report are backed up by CPAG’s own case evidence from across Scotland

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said the report proves the “devastating impact” of recent UK welfare reforms on families in Scotland and the risk that they will lead to an increase in child poverty.

The Scottish Government’s Impact of Welfare Reform Tracking Study produced its first report based on interviews with people on benefits between September last year and January this year.

It found that the current system is inconsistent and stressful and there are inconsistencies in the way Jobcentre staff across the country behave towards claimants.

People involved in the study feel stigmatised by the rest of society because they receive benefits, and believe people look down on them.

Those who have recently been moved off disability benefits or lone parent benefits to Jobseeker’s Allowance are also not having their needs met, according to the report. The current system does not address the barriers they face finding work and therefore is failing to help them into jobs.

John Dickie, the head of CPAG in Scotland, said: “It is already clear that the current approach to UK welfare reform is having a devastating impact on tens of thousands of families across Scotland and undermining action to end child poverty.

“The anxiety caused by poor quality information, the stigma increasingly associated with claiming benefits, the hardship caused by delays and mistakes and the fundamental inadequacy of current benefit levels described in this report are backed up by CPAG’s own case evidence from across Scotland.”

The body said it is vital the UK government publishes clear targets for dealing with benefit claims, ensures claimants have adequate financial support while claims are being considered and rethinks damaging cuts.

Dickie also said the Scottish Government must invest more in the Scottish Welfare Fund, designed to help the people when they are struggling most, and do more to raise awareness of it.

“The implementation of a national Scottish Welfare Fund, with additional ring fenced funding, has been a vital source of support for families facing crisis and exceptional pressures,” said Dickie. “It is hugely welcome but it is clear from this review that more can be done to raise awareness of the scheme, speed up the decision process and ensure applicants get the support they need.”