THE Tory government are making the poorest families in Scotland thousands of pounds poorer, with single parents the worst hit by George Osborne’s welfare reforms, a new report has claimed.
The Scottish Government research paper, The Impact of UK Welfare Policy on Families with Children, found cuts to benefits and welfare policy reforms implemented since 2015 have left some families losing as much as £4000 a year.
The Tories fought the 2015 General Election on a promise to cut welfare spending by £12 billion, and in that parliament, Osborne, chancellor at the time, moved fast to make significant changes to Britain’s benefits.
In his first budget he introduced a four-year freeze to working age benefits, keeping most welfare payments at 2015 levels until 2019, rather than increase them with the rate of pay. He also introduced a two-child limit on Universal Credit and child tax credits, and a cap on local housing authority rent.
In their report, the Scottish Government say the four-year freeze to working age benefits is having the biggest impact in Scotland, leading to welfare cuts north of the Border of £370 million by 2020/21.
Researchers pulled together three different scenarios looking at how the changes affect lone parents, a couple on a low income, and a couple with four children where both parents work; in all of the case studies, the families lose at least £1000 every year.
For a lone parent with three children, including one born after April 2016, the difference, because of the two-child limit and freeze, is a drop of £4080 a year, with their income going from £23,385 to £19,205. The researchers claim that even if the parent secures work, they will still be £940 a year worse off due to benefit changes.
Meanwhile, a working couple with two children face an estimated £1540 reduction in annual income to £24,300 by 2020/21
Researchers said the analysis does not take into account the impact of transitional protection payments which families may be entitled to and disregards entitlements to reclaim childcare costs under universal credit, claiming it is “less relevant”.
Previous research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimated that the UK Government’s welfare policies will cut, on average, more than 10 per cent from the incomes of low income families with children.
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “By the end of this decade, the cuts being imposed on Scotland since 2010 are expected to reduce welfare spending in Scotland by nearly £4bn a year. “As well as moral objections, taking money away from low income families makes no economic sense. “This is money taken from the pockets of families that are already surviving on low incomes and pushing them into crisis, debt and is creating problems that have to be picked up by other public services and emergency aid such as the Scottish Welfare Fund and food banks.
“In Scotland we are taking a different approach. “Our new social security system will recognise social security as a basic human right and we will ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect.”
This is an extract from Calumn Baird’s article in The National. To read the remainder of the article click here.