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New research commissioned by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee has revealed that disabled people and families with children have been the most affected by the cumulative impact of welfare reform.

The researchers, from Christina Beatty and Steve Fothergill from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, looked at what the cumulative effect has been on different groups.

New research commissioned by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee has revealed that disabled people and families with children have been the most affected by the cumulative impact of welfare reform.

The researchers, Christina Beatty and Steve Fothergill from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University,  looked at what the cumulative effect has been on different groups, the first time such research has been carried out.  The UK Government has previously refused to carry out such research, claiming it would be too difficult.

The cost to Scotland by 2018 when the reforms are fully implemented will be around £1.5bn a year, a huge hit to Scotland’s economy and the families across the country. Families with children lose on average around £1,400 a year; this rises to £1,800 for lone parents.  This represents a £440 loss per year, per working age adult in Scotland.

People with disabilities lose even more – an estimated £2,000 a year, before taking into account expected losses from the transition from Disability Living allowance to Personal Independence Payments, where the treasury expects to make around 25% savings.  The impact on people considered to be less severely disabled is likely to be huge, for example, time-limiting contributions based Employment Support Allowance to one year, before means-testing, will impact on people whose partners are in work and earning over the income threshold.

The UK Government repeatedly asserts that “we are all in this together” when referring to austerity, however, researchers found that these reforms impacted very unevenly across different groups and regions – Glasgow, home to some of Scotland’s most deprived communities,  has above average losses, with £580 lost per year per working age adult, or £239m per year in total.

The benefits covered in the report are as follows:

  • Housing Benefit – Local Housing Allowance
  • Non-dependent deductions
  • Household benefit cap
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Incapacity benefits
  • Child Benefit
  • Tax Credits
  • 1 per cent up-rating of working age benefits

The report does not cover Housing Benefit or Council Tax, as the Scottish Government has stepped in to cover the shortfall in rents created by the bedroom tax and to cover reductions to the council tax allowances, therefore, people in Scotland are not currently impacted by these reforms.  In addition, Universal Credit, Income Support for lone parents, and the change from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index is are not included in the report.  It also doesn’t deal with the the impact that the increase in sanctions and benefit conditionality changes have had on different groups.  We do know, however, that young people are most affected by sanctions and that should the Conservatives form the next UK Government they intend to abolish Housing Benefit for people under the age of 25.

Speaking of the report findings, Satwat Rehman, Director of One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), said

“Mitigation is not sufficient. Welfare reform is robbing our poorest children of life chances and meaningful existence. A system based on cutting benefits and penalising our poorest families to live in penury with a terrible impact on children’s health and wellbeing is unacceptable. Now it is time to say welfare reform is not working. Other European countries support much more generous and effective welfare systems and there is no reason why we cannot afford to do likewise.”

Around half of the total losses to benefits falls on families who are in work, with £350m lost in tax credits alone.

It should be noted  that some of these reforms have yet to be  implemented and the research figures are estimates on what the situation will be when all of the reforms come into effect.  Around 30% of the overall cost to people in receipt of benefits is yet to come due in part to delays in reassessing people on Incapacity Benefits.   Reassessment of people in receipt of DLA for PIPs has also still to take place in Scotland.  Those making new claims for Personal Independence Payments have been subjected to long delays, with many waiting up to a year before receiving anything.  A number of third sector organisations, including GCVS,  have called for a halt to the implementation of this policy until welfare powers agreed in the new devolution settlement have been devolved to the Scottish Government.  Campaigners are also calling for a halt to the implementation of Universal Credit.

Source: Scottish Parliament website


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