Dramatic rise in households’ reliance on benefits, says report

Dr Azeem Ibrahim, Executive Chairman of the Scotland Institute

Dr Azeem Ibrahim, Executive Chairman of the Scotland Institute

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THE number of Scottish households reliant on benefits has risen dramatically since the recession, a new report by an independent think-tank has found

A report by the Scotland Ins­titute says income from social security has become increasingly important to households on less than average income to offset the fall in wages since the financial crash.

According to the think-tank, its research challenges the idea that dependency on welfare has resulted from overly generous social security payments.

According to the report titled “Changes in Household Income and Expenditure in Scotland”, the average household received 17 per cent of their income from social security in 2008. By 2013 this had increased to more than 33 per cent.

Over a similar period, average household incomes had stagnated between 2008 and 2011 and only recovered marginally since then. A household’s weekly wage was £777.85 in 2008. By 2010, it had only increased to £818.80 – a figure that does not take into account inflation. It then went up to £860.26 in 2013.

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The report criticised the UK government’s welfare cap, which limits the benefit a household can receive on the grounds that imposing it ensures that “work pays”.

The report said: “The reality is not only does this severely harm the few households aff­ected, it gives a quite deliberately misleading impression of the amount of social security benefits actually paid out to households in Scotland.”

Dr Azeem Ibrahim, the executive chair of the Scotland Insitute, said: “This [report] clarifies the position of the most vulnerable people in soc­iety and strongly suggests that unemployment, falling real wages and the growth and low pay, low security work are all far better explanations than myths about generations of work-less households.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “No-one should be living in poverty in a country as prosperous as Scotland, which is why we are taking action by tackling low pay, providing more affordable housing and supporting people into employment.

“We have invested £296 million since 2013 in mitigation measures against the UK government welfare cuts.

“Although this has protected 72,000 households from having to pay the bedroom tax, provided crisis and community care grants through the Scottish Welfare Fund, and helped people pay their council tax bills, this support cannot compensate people fully for the £6 billion removed from welfare in Scotland since 2010.

“New powers over social sec­urity, despite their limited scope, will provide opportunities to develop different policies for Scotland which are fairer and help tackle inequalities and poverty. Making sure people are treated with dignity and respect will be at the heart of everything we do with our new social security powers.

“We will look to reduce the bur­eaucracy involved in claiming benefits and ensure that, at all stages, people are provided with the relevant information they need on how the system will work for them.”

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