Embargoed: 00.01 hrs, 6 April 2017
Today, changes in the benefit system will be implemented which will hurt those living on the lowest incomes. These changes, combined with the freeze in most working age benefits, have led the Poverty Alliance to call for a specific Scottish response to protect people from the worst excesses of the UK Government.
Changes include reducing Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group by £30 per week, cuts to the amount of support bereaved parents can claim, a new two child limit to tax credits, and the removal of the family element of tax credits for new families.
Hundreds of thousands of people would also have expected to see an increase in their benefits in April, including to Child Benefit. However, due to the UK Government’s freeze in the value of working age benefits, there will be no increase. This will see effectively £800 million coming out of the pockets of low and middle-income people across the UK.
The changes will not only push more families into poverty, but will push people deeper into poverty.
Those affected are people who need support the most – those identified as needing support to work, families suffering bereavement, lone parent households and large families.
As a society, we must make it clear that this is unacceptable. Not only should the UK government reverse these changes but the Scottish Government must consider what action it can take in the meantime.
When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 it was said that it would help provide ‘Scottish solutions to Scottish problems’. Now it is faced with delivering Scottish solutions to UK problems. It is clear that the Scottish Government cannot reverse all of the problems created by the UK Government’s continuing austerity policies, but it must use all the levers at its disposal if we are to prevent more people falling in severe poverty.
The Poverty Alliance is working with colleagues across the sector to explore how the Scottish Government can use new powers to protect families and people with disabilities. One example would be, by topping up child benefit in Scotland by five pounds per week, which could help to lift 30,000 children out of poverty.
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said:
“These changes will affect those groups who are already at a greater risk – lone parents, people with long term health conditions and disabilities, and large families. They continue the failed austerity policies of the last UK Government, policies that can only lead to increasing levels of poverty and inequality.
“When Theresa May became Prime Minister last year she committed to work on behalf of all those who were ‘just managing’. This commitment now rings hollow, as her Government continues to implement policies that will make the lot of people who are struggling to get by even tougher. The UK Government must change course and reconsider these cuts.
“The Scottish Government must also do all it can to address the likely impact of these cuts. That means using powers to top-up benefits that are currently reserved to Westminster, such as child benefit. With 26 per cent of children in Scotland now in poverty, it is critical that we invest now through child benefit to prevent even more falling into poverty.
“Universal benefits like child benefit are one of the most effective ways of ensuring that all those who need help can get it. The Scottish Government has stated that social security is a human right, but that right must be backed up with an adequate income. Investing in child benefit in Scotland would help deliver that and would show that a fairer, poverty free Scotland is possible.”
For more information contact Carla McCormack, Policy and Parliamentary Officer, on 0141 3530440 or email email@example.com