Parents and disabled claimants ‘disproportionately affected’ by welfare reforms

Parents and disabled claimants ‘disproportionately affected’ by welfare reforms

Parents and people with disabilities are being hit hardest by the UK government’s programme of welfare reform according to new research commissioned by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.

The report, published today, represents the first time the impact of the UK government’s welfare reform agenda on different household types in Scotland has been quantified.

The research for the Committee was conducted by Professors Christina Beatty and Steve Fothergill of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

The new evidence shows that in Scotland, it is estimated that couples with dependent children will lose an average of more than £1,400 a year, and lone parents with dependent children stand to lose an average of around £1,800 a year from their income stream.

In all, families with children will lose an estimated £960m a year – approaching two-thirds of the overall financial loss in Scotland.

Disabled claimants and those with health problems have also been shown to be disproportionately affected. Reductions in incapacity benefits are estimated to average £2,000 a year, and some of the same people also face big losses in Disability Living Allowance and reductions in other benefits.

Committee convener Michael McMahon MSP (pictured) said: “The Welfare Reform Committee has amassed a growing volume of evidence documenting the impact of the welfare reform agenda on Scotland’s communities. This latest evidence shows that some of those most in need of support, namely parents and disabled people are being hardest hit. For us to be in this situation in 21st century Scotland is unacceptable.”

The report also shows that almost half the reduction in benefits might be expected to fall on in-work households.

Deputy convener, Clare Adamson MSP added: “The Scottish Government is to be commended for introducing measures to alleviate some of the worst effects of the welfare reform agenda. New powers over a range of benefits are due to be given to Holyrood in the coming years and this research will help direct those new powers to help those most in need of support.”

Until now, there has been no way to assess the impact across the various benefits on different types of households. Because of the cumulative impact of people being affected by several different benefit streams, the overall impact of welfare reforms has been hidden.

The statistics are expected to become an essential tool for government and local authorities in shaping targeted responses and service delivery.

The research follows two previous reports which measured the financial impact of welfare reform on Scotland as a whole and by local authority area, and the impact down to ward level.

The Committee expects to hear oral evidence on this report at its meeting on 10 March.

Professor Steve Fothergill, of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The figures demonstrate that the welfare reforms impact very unevenly. The very big impact on families with children, in particular, has previously been under the radar because it is the cumulative result of several individual reforms. Coalition ministers have argued that ‘we’re all in it together’. The impacts of welfare reform, documented in our report, show this is far from being the case.”

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