Benefits advice groups share £5.4 million

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  The Scottish Government is directing new money to agencies helping people facing the brunt of UK benefit cuts, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today.

In response to a substantial increase in requests for help as a result of Westminster welfare reforms, a new package of funding will support those providing front-line advice and support to people across Scotland.

Included in the funding package is an immediate cash injection of £300,000 for services such as those provided by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

The package also contains:

  • Setting up a new £1.7 million fund providing direct support to advice services
  • A further £3.4 million to be spent over the next two years on helping organisations mitigate the impacts welfare reforms.
  • Changes in Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit will reduce the budgets of more than 100,000 households in Scotland – 88 per cent of them couples with children. On average these families will be £700 a year worse off.
  • Over 100,000 households across Scotland will also lose on average of around £600 a year as a result of the bedroom tax.

It is estimated that around 1 million working age households in Scotland will be affected by the uprating of benefits by 1 per cent, announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, reducing the total income of Scottish households by around £210 million by 2014-15.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“Many people across Scotland are suffering as a direct result of UK Government benefit cuts, and many more are concerned about how they may be affected by changes yet to come into force.

“Citizen’s Advice Bureaux across the country are currently dealing with nearly 800 new issues for every working day.

“And the latest extremely worrying analysis about the families affected by benefits illustrates exactly that point.

“This reflects our serious concerns about the pace, scale and impact of Westminster’s benefits changes. It is clear that the impact of the cuts will extend across Scottish society, with vulnerable groups, women and working families all likely to suffer.

“This is putting more and more pressure on the organisations that provide crucial front line advice to those affected. These are the people, who, on a daily basis see how lives are being damaged by the fall out from the UK government’s welfare reform changes.

“That is why we have listened and are providing £5.4 million to help meet the demand for advice and support as it dramatically increases.

“This is just further evidence of the need for independence. We want a welfare system in Scotland that provides fair and decent support for all and protects the vulnerable in our society. The only way to guarantee that is to have possession of the powers to deliver it.”

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing last week called on the Tory-led Westminster government to provide additional support for charities after it was revealed advice services staff are struggling to keep up with the flood of calls from people pleading for help as a result of changes to the benefits system.

Ms Ewing, member of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, said: 

“The Scottish Government has stepped in to help advice services staff who are struggling to keep up with the demand from people pleading for help as a result of Westminster’s changes to the benefits system. 

“That is an extremely welcome step and reflects the SNP’s serious concerns about the pace, scale and impact of Westminster’s benefits changes.

“This highlights the difference in approach between the Scottish and UK governments – while Westminster cuts, Scotland steps in to help. 

“This £5.4million fund will help front-line staff who on a daily basis see how lives are being damaged by the consequences from Westminster’s welfare reform changes. 

“The SNP is doing all it can to limit the impact of Tory-LibDem cuts that are hurting vulnerable groups, women and working families. 

“It is clear the only way to defend the Welfare State is to vote Yes in 2014 and protect it against Westminster politicians who become increasingly out of touch with the values and needs of the people of Scotland more and more every day.” 

The Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit analysis is taken from published DWP statistics. 

Bedroom tax analysis estimates that:

105,000 households will be affected by the bedroom tax.  Of these, 83,000 will be under-occupying by one bedroom and 22,000 will be under-occupying by two or more rooms.

With around 586,000 households in the social rented sector, it is estimated that 18 per cent of all households in the sector will be affected.

Depending on the measure of inflation used, the average weekly loss in 2012/13 prices is between £11 and £12.

This gives an estimate total loss of Housing Benefit to the sector of between £60 – £65 million per annum.

The Bedroom Tax will reduce the amount of housing benefit support that can be given to tenants in the social rented sector by introducing new size criteria for working-age Housing Benefit claimants, who have extra bedrooms.

People who are judged to be ‘under occupying’ their home by one bedroom will have their housing benefit slashed by 14 per Cent. Where they are under occupying by two or more bedrooms the deduction is 25 per Cent.

The new criteria for under occupation could mean that ill or disabled people, who use a spare bedroom for medical equipment, may all be affected.