Benefit reforms ‘bad for veterans and children’

Scottish veterans minister Keith Brown. Picture: Contributed
Scottish veterans minister Keith Brown. Picture: Contributed
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BENEFIT reforms will have a detrimental impact on veterans, pregnant women and children, according to Scottish Government ministers.

Scottish veterans minister Keith Brown is seeking a meeting with Lord Ashcroft, the Prime Minister’s special representative for veterans, about redundancies, uncertainty over the delayed basing review and UK welfare reforms including the so-called bedroom tax.

Meanwhile, Scottish housing minister Margaret Burgess has complained that a below-inflation rise in maternity pay, plus changes in eligibility for child and working tax credits, will leave households worse off.

Mr Brown said: “When our servicemen and women have courageously served their country, the very least they can expect in return is support when they leave service and return to civilian life.

“But Westminster’s welfare cuts, including the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, only threaten to undermine this and threaten to make adjusting to life outside the armed forces substantially more difficult.

“Furthermore, the MoD (Ministry of Defence) recently announced its biggest tranche of army redundancies in recent times - with plans to cut a further 5,300 army posts in 2013.

“In addition, we are still awaiting the outcome of the basing review, which has implications for communities across Scotland.

“These decisions are going to put significant pressure on Scottish public and third-sector organisations who are working hard to support veterans and their families, and I urge the UK Government to seriously consider the impact that such changes will have when undertaking its transition review for military personnel over this year.”

The so-called bedroom tax would see housing benefit reduced for claimants who have a spare bedroom.

In addition, new Scottish Government analysis suggests the upgrade of statutory maternity pay by less than inflation will make mothers approximately £275 worse off by 2015/16.

Changes to eligibility for child tax credits and working tax credits could mean that households will, on average, be about £700 per year worse off, according to the SNP administration.

Ms Burgess said: “Not only are Westminster’s drastic changes to the welfare system making life tougher for ordinary families, they are also making the struggle to make ends meet that bit more difficult in these tough financial times.

“That is why last month we appointed an expert working group on welfare to look at the cost and delivery of benefit payments in Scotland, and make initial recommendations for how a welfare system might operate in an independent Scotland.

“This Government is committed to working with local government, third sector and other organisations to do everything we can to mitigate the worst impacts of these damaging welfare reforms.

“In January we announced an additional £5.4 million for frontline advice and support services, such as Citizens Advice Bureau, which will go directly towards helping Scottish people understand and better deal with these changes.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “We are giving councils an extra £155 million this year so that they can help their vulnerable tenants, including £30 million to support disabled people and foster carers.

“It’s only right that we bring fairness back to the system - when around 150,000 households in Scotland are on the social housing waiting list and thousands more are living in overcrowded homes.”