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UK welfare system savaged by those forced to use it

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​Most Scots subjected to UK welfare regime think it's not working

The UK’s welfare set up has been slated – by the very people forced to endure it.

Three out of five Scots who have tangled with the Westminster system – which has come under a hail of criticism for its punitive sanctions regime – say it is not fit for purpose.

That rises to 68% of those who have been subjected to the controversial Universal Credit scheme, which rolls six benefits into one but has been accused of plunging people into despair as they await vital payments.

The findings come from Scottish Government experience panels, which were set up to ask claimants about their experience of the UK system as Scotland creates its own.

When asked to rank their overall experience on a scale ranging from “very good” to “very poor”, 29% of people gave it the lowest rating while a further 31% described it as “poor”.

Less than a fifth (18%) said their experience had been positive, with 12% ranking the system as “good” while 6% described it as “very good”.

The remaining 22% of those who were surveyed described the system as “average”.

For Universal Credit, 68% of the 212 people with experience of it said the system was “poor” or “very poor” while 21% ranked it as “average” and only 10% classed it as being “good” or “very good”.

People were asked about their experience of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Carer’s Allowance, Sure Start maternity grants, cold weather payments, winter fuel payments, discretionary housing payments and Universal Credit.

It found people with a disability or long-term health condition were more likely than those without such problems to have had a poor experience – with 63% of those with a mental health condition, 62% of those who suffered from chronic pain and 60% of physically disabled describing their experience as either “poor” or “very poor”, compared to 23% of people with no long-term health condition or disability.

People from the most-deprived parts of Scotland were also more likely to have had a poor experience of the benefits system.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, told TFN: “It is unsurprising that so many people with experience of claiming social security benefits rate the current system as performing poorly.

“Rather than being a safety net, welfare reform has lead to low benefit levels trapping people in poverty.

“It is important that when new powers are devolved to Scotland that we do things differently, and make sure that the principles of dignity and respect are made meaningful.

“This also means addressing the adequacy of benefits and ensuring that people have enough to lead a dignified life.”

Social security minister Jeane Freeman said: “This report reinforces what all our consultation and work so far has told us, that the UK system does not treat people well and there is a great deal to improve on.

“Our unique social security experience panels will play a key role in the design of Scotland’s new service that we are building with the people who will use it.

“Their lived experiences will help to focus our work on the most important areas for improvement as we build a rights-based social security service founded on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect.”