Sea change in policy is needed to prevent further misery to the vulnerable caused by Tory austerity
Women, disabled people and the young are being savaged by damaging UK government welfare cuts – and the future promises more misery.
A new report outlines the impact of Westminster-driven austerity measures on Scotland.
Cuts to welfare have devastated families, the report shows, plunging people into despair and sending thousands to foodbanks – and worse is to come if there’s not a “sea change” in policy.
The study was commissioned by the Scottish Government, which looked at cuts inflicted by the Tories since 2010 when David Cameron’s election ushered in the era of austerity.
It uses that data to project ahead. On that basis, 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.
Poverty campaigners said there must be a “sea change” in priorities.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This official report lays bare the devastating impact UK benefit cuts since 2010 have had, and will have, on families across Scotland.
“As this report makes clear it is families with children that are being hardest hit. By the end of the decade ordinary families, both in and out of work, will have seen their incomes cut by nearly £4bn a year in Scotland alone, and the consequences are played out in rising child poverty, rising rent arrears and the scandal of increasing reliance on foodbanks. The UK government needs to act now to end the freeze on benefit uprating and restore the value of the new Universal Credit.
“A sea change in level of investment in supporting family incomes is needed.”
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: "“This report highlights further the shattering impact that welfare reform is having on families and communities across Scotland.
“It is also important to remember that we have not yet seen the worst impact of many of the cuts.
“The UK government must reconsider its position on welfare reform and act to reverse the changes that have been introduced since 2010.
“We believe that they should start by ending the freeze on working age benefits which is expected to affect 700,000 families across Scotland, with an average loss of £450 per year.
“The Scottish Government should also work to move beyond simply mitigating welfare reform and look at where we can implement preventative measures.
“The Poverty Alliance, alongside others in the third sector, has called for the Scottish Government to increase child benefit by £5 per week which would lift 30,000 children out of poverty, and prevent others from falling below the poverty line.”
Holyrood 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."