Women, disabled people and the young in Scotland are being harmed by UK Government welfare cuts, according to a report identifying an almost £4 billion fall in social security spend north of the border.
A Scottish Government analysis into the impact of UK Government welfare measures on Scotland suggests social security spend will fall by £3.9 billion by 2020/21 and hundreds of thousands of people will lose out on benefits.
Anti-poverty campaigners urged the UK Government to act immediately to end benefit freezes and urged the Scottish Government to use its new welfare powers to do more to mitigate the cuts.
The Welfare Reform Annual Report 2017 said around £0.9 billion of the reduction was down to measures announced by the Conservative Government of 2015-17.
The benefit freeze is expected to reduce spending in Scotland by £370 million and the reduction in the work allowance of Universal Credit by £250 million by 2020/21. The Benefit Cap will reduce spending by an estimated £6 million by 2020/21 and the removal of housing benefit by around £3 million by 2020/21.
When looked at by local authority, the report said Glasgow is estimated to experience the largest fall in total welfare spending (£120 million by 2020/21).
West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Dundee, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire in particular are likely to experience the biggest falls in welfare spending by 2020/21.
The report said there was evidence to suggest women are disproportionately impacted by the UK Government welfare reforms. It pointed out lone parents, who are mostly women, are more reliant on many low income benefits.
Reform to disability and incapacity benefits, including reassessments from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payment, have resulted in some people receiving no award or a reduced sum.
While the introduction of a stricter test to claim benefits has seen people lose out. Young people have been affected by a default entitlement to the housing element of Universal Credit.
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.”
Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government had spend more than £350 million to mitigate the cuts.
But she added: “It is simply not possible to for us to mitigate all of the UK Government’s welfare cuts without major reductions in our expenditure in other vital public services, in growing our economy and in providing real opportunity to our young people.”
John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group said the report laid bare the “devastating impact” of benefit cuts.
He said: “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 £4billion 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 food banks. The UK government needs to act now to end the freeze on benefit uprating and restore the value of the new universal credit.
“Scottish Government mitigation in the form of additional spending on discretionary housing payments, the Scottish welfare Fund and council tax reduction is hugely welcome but if Ministers are serious about eradicating child poverty by 2030 a sea change in the level of investment in supporting family incomes is needed. Using new powers to top up child benefit for example could alone lift 30 000 children out of poverty.”