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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Westminster austerity cuts tipped to reduce Scottish social security spending by £4bn

Written by The Press Association

UK Government welfare cuts are expected to reduce annual social security spending in Scotland by almost £4 billion by 2020/21, according to a new report.

The Scottish Government's update on the impacts of reforms made since 2010 said about £0.9 billion of the cut was due to measures announced by the Conservative government in the 2015/17 parliament.

The benefit freeze is expected to reduce spending in Scotland by £370 million and the reduction in the work allowance of Universal Credit by £250 million.

The report estimates the benefit cap will reduce spending by £6 million and the removal of housing benefit by about £3 million.

Glasgow is expected to be the hardest-hit council area but West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Dundee, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire are likely to experience the biggest falls relative to their working population size, it said.

Social security minister Jeane Freeman (pictured) said women, disabled people and young people would be disproportionately affected.

She said: "This report presents the stark reality of the UK Government's austerity programme which imposes unjust welfare cuts that not only continue to cause misery and push more people into poverty, but also directly affect local economies across Scotland and attract international criticism.

"These cuts are damaging our people and they are harmful to our communities.

"Every pound taken away from those entitled to financial support not only affects those individuals and their families, it is also a pound less that is spent locally."

Ms Freeman highlighted that the Scottish Government had used over £350 million since 2013/14 to mitigate against the "worst damage".

She added: "It is simply not possible to for us to mitigate all of the UK Government's welfare cuts without major reductions in our expenditure in other vital public services, in growing our economy and in providing real opportunity to our young people.

"The UK Government is responsible for all of this damage to individual lives and local communities, and we will continue to use every opportunity to press the UK Government to reverse these unjust policies."

Scottish ministers have now laid regulations in the Scottish Parliament to make Universal Credit payments more flexible in the first use of new devolved social security powers.

Ms Freeman added: "We have consistently said the new social security system in Scotland will treat everyone with dignity, fairness and respect.

"Introducing this flexible approach to Universal Credit demonstrates this and I look forward to the new regulations coming into force and making life that little bit easier for a number of people."

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "Scottish Government mitigation in the form of additional spending on discretionary housing payments, the Scottish welfare fund and council tax reduction is hugely welcome, but if ministers are serious about eradicating child poverty by 2030 a sea change in the level of investment in supporting family incomes is needed.

"Using new powers to top up child benefit, for example, could alone lift 30,000 children out of poverty."

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