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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Budget fails poor families

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George Osborne's latest budget will push families further into poverty, say charities

A budget thin on concessions for low-income families means poverty will become more embedded in society, according to Scottish charities.

As chancellor of the exchequor George Osborne announced as part of his 2014 budget there will be a vote next week in the Commons on reducing the UK’s welfare bill to £119 billion, opponents slammed Osborne for creating “diversionary tactics” and “gambling with people’s lives in a desperate attempt to lower the UK’s spending".

We're living in a deeply divided Britain, where just five families have the same wealth as over 12 million of the UK's poorest people.

Osborne’s budget speech to the Commons offered few concessions for those living on low incomes.

Charities and anti-poverty campaigners voiced concern that capping benefits spend is a short-term response, arguing investment in prevention will reduce the welfare bill over the long term .

The cap on welfare spending will mean poverty would become further embedded in Scottish society said John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group Scotland.

He added: “It means the government's hands are tied on the action it can take to tackle child poverty.”

The poorest children were hit hardest in the recession and there is a huge risk of leaving them behind in the recovery, said Save the Children’s head of Scotland, Neil Mathers.

“The budget was a missed opportunity to address the needs of families that are struggling to pay their food bill," said Mathers.

“If the welfare cap is mishandled and pushes low income families further into poverty, it risks children's life chances."

Oxfam said the increase in personal tax allowances announced by Osborne would do little for the working poor who will see the majority of the gains taken away as benefits are clawed back.

Katy Wright, Oxfam's head of UK policy, added: "We're living in a deeply divided Britain, where just five families have the same wealth as over 12 million of the UK's poorest people.

“We'd be surprised if any government would be comfortable with this disparity, especially at a time when half a million people are being forced to visit foodbanks.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie led the political criticism saying Osborne had shown little empathy for people north of the border.

"Wages are down, people are taking out loans to pay for everyday items, and Scotland's biggest foodbank is struggling to keep its shelves filled,” he said.

"As poverty becomes embedded in society we see Tories and Lib Dems gloating over their Dickensian decay, with Labour offering to finish the job.

"Desperate diversionary tactics – flashing a thruppenny bit and tweaking bingo tax – make it clearer than ever that we have a Westminster elite laughing as they gamble with people's lives.”

Elsewhere Alcohol Focus Scotland reacted to the news that spirits and cider would see duty frozen while there will be a cut in 1p for beer.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the announcement was a huge disappointment which would cost the country dear.

“It is so disappointing that the chancellor and other politicians have once again listened to the alcohol industry rather than the people working to reduce alcohol harm and improve public health.

“We know that cheap alcohol cost lives – 20 every week in Scotland.”

Budget key facts for charities

Social investment tax relief set at 30%

VAT on fuel for air ambulances to be removed

Gift Aid to be simplified for greater uptake

Long haul air duty reduced from 2015 to band B