Scotland – Welfare cuts create ‘grave concern’

MSPs have "grave concerns" about the future of the most vulnerable people because of a £2.5 billion cut in benefits.

Holyrood's Welfare Reform Committee has approved the principles of a Scottish Government Bill designed to mitigate "the likely widespread impact" of benefit changes in the UK Welfare Reform Act.

The UK Government is reducing the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) budget spent in Scotland by £2.5 billion.

The Act will also abolish a range of benefits such as council tax benefit, income support, jobseeker`s allowance, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit, and replace it with a single universal credit.

The committee has heard weeks of testimony from charities, unions, housing agencies, advice groups and other stakeholders, and found "universal support" for a Holyrood Bill to mitigate the predicted negative impact of the UK Bill.

Speaking at the launch of the committee`s stage one report on the Welfare Reform (Further Provision)(Scotland) Bill, convener Michael McMahon said: "We heard from witnesses about the bleak picture for those on welfare and the scale of personal impact that is likely to follow the UK reforms.

"We have grave concerns for the future of Scotland's most vulnerable people. This comes at a time when the Scottish welfare budget is being cut by £2.5 billion. Seeking to limit even some of the negative impacts of reforms is therefore no mean feat."

MSPs heard that the changes will "remove lifeline benefits from large numbers of vulnerable people", with "major impacts on the independence of disabled people, and on child poverty and homelessness levels".

They also heard that there is an increased likelihood of "individuals and families getting into serious debt, including rent arrears" due to the new arrangements for allocating income support and benefit.

The committee said the DWP "has done limited work to assess the impacts on different groups", making it impossible for MSPs to work out where to target support.

Copyright © 2012 The Press Association

And from the BBC on this story …

Proposed new laws to "limit the impact" of UK-wide welfare reforms in Scotland should be passed, MSPs have said. A special Holyrood committee said there were "grave concerns" over Westminster plans for a new universal credit … read more