Finance secretary urges UK government to halt ‘harmful’ welfare cuts
The UK government must use the Autumn Statement to reverse its freeze on benefits and the damaging reduction of the benefit cap, and ensure low income families will not face any further welfare cuts, according to finance secretary Derek Mackay.
Mr Mackay urged Chancellor Philip Hammond to reverse the further lowering of the benefit cap which came into force last week, which the Chartered Institute of Housing’s recent report estimates will affect up to 20,000 children in Scotland, and to reconsider the on-going freeze to working age benefits and cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit.
The minister also asked for confirmation that the UK government will not add to the welfare cuts already planned to be imposed on Scotland which are expected to reduce annual spending on social security by around £1 billion by 2020.
Mr Mackay said: “Low income families have faced the brunt of the UK government’s damaging welfare reform agenda to date so it’s only right that the Chancellor provides some reassurance that they will be protected from further attacks in the Autumn Statement.
“The impact of cuts and changes to benefits over the last few years, alongside a discredited sanctions regime, has widened the poverty gap, left families on low incomes worrying about putting food on the table, heating their homes and paying their bills, and driven the rise in the need for foodbanks.
“With £1bn expected to be annually cut from benefits by 2020 UK government policies will plunge significant numbers of households into financial difficulties - the UK government should recognise it has squeezed enough from the welfare budget and low income families.”
Social security secretary Angela Constance added: “We will continue to urge the UK government to reverse changes to the benefit cap and the on-going freeze to working age benefits as it is harming our poorest households.
“We are already spending £100 million a year in mitigating the worst of the welfare cuts inflicted by the UK government, including fully protecting people from the ‘bedroom tax’. This is money which would be far better spent on lifting people out of poverty.”