UK benefits changes to strip £200m from Scots welfare budget

UK government benefit changes will strip £200 million from Scotland's welfare budget and hit families with children hardest, Holyrood's Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman has said.

Families with children will be hit hardest by the changes. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Several benefit changes came into force yesterday including a two child cap on child tax credits, cutting payments for widowed parents, and a reduction in the support some people with work-limiting disabilities or health conditions can claim.

The cap means anyone with two or more children is ineligible for child tax credits for any more children, unless an exception applies.

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Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government would not follow the “callous” policy which research estimates will drive up child poverty by 10 per cent.

She said the cap will not be part of the country’s council tax reduction scheme which cuts council tax for those on low incomes during a visit to meet single parents and families in Glasgow yesterday.

Ms Freeman said: “The measures being introduced today will take around £200 million out of Scotland’s welfare budget each year by 2021-22. The squeeze will be felt most by families with children, young people and those who have already been hardest hit by continuing UK government austerity.

“As the Scottish Government take steps to eradicate child poverty, we do so in the face of these cuts which will push even more families into poverty.

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland, called on Westminster to end the freeze on child benefits and reverse cuts to Universal Credit, insisting it will put a “terrible burden on families.”

She said: “Rising child poverty is a scar on our society and is projected to rise further as new benefit cuts, that could cost the hardest-hit single parents more than £6,000 by 2019, are set to come into force today.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Our welfare reforms are incentivising work and restoring fairness to the system for those who need it as well as the taxpayers who fund it. Across the UK we continue to spend around £90 billion a year supporting people who are out of work, disabled or a carer.”

Benefit changes ran into opposition earlier this week with criticism of the so-called rape clause.

Rape Crisis Scotland said it was “inhumane” that women who conceive a third child through rape will be exempt from the policy limiting child tax credits to two children 
per family only if they can prove they were sexually assaulted.