Benefit claimants live in fear of further changes

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The UK government's austerity agenda is leading to vulnerable people fearing even small changes to their benefit claims a study finds

2nd June 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

People on benefits in Scotland live in fear of further changes and increasing financial insecurity, a Scottish Government study has found.

It discovered even small changes to claims resulted in often significant negative impacts while many live in fear of their cash being cut or sanctioned arbitrarily.

Many found the benefits system difficult to navigate, suffered from poor communication and was replete with official errors and delays.  

The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland study also discovered those applying for disability benefits had the difficulty of presenting themselves in a negative light - emphasising everything they could not do - for the purposes of applying for benefits.

This negativity undermined their own attempts to be positive and see themselves as capable.

Their (UK government) approach is slashing the incomes of some of our poorest households and pushing 100,000 children into poverty - Alex Neil

Even those who had been assessed before found the process "arduous".

Others said they often "felt insulted by the implication that they were lazy, or lying about the nature of their condition or their attempts to find work".

Some felt under "constant suspicion", which was "upsetting and damaging to their self-esteem".

Lone parents said they felt there was an increased pressure to seek employment without an increase in available support.

This was particularly prevalent among lone parents in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

They described Jobcentres "as places of conflict rather than help" and said the Work Programme was not helpful.

The study comes on top of a report by Inclusion Scotland which says disabled people in Scotland are suffering "stress, fear and isolation" because of welfare reform.

The group surveyed hundreds of people to find out how welfare reforms were impacting on their lives.

Those surveyed said they felt "confused" by various benefit changes and that they found the application process "increasingly difficult and distressing".

Scotland’s social justice secretary, Alex Neil said: “The UK government’s austerity agenda and benefit cuts are having a very damaging effect on people in Scotland. Their approach is slashing the incomes of some of our poorest households and pushing 100,000 children into poverty.

“The Welfare Reform Tracking Study is further evidence that people are living in constant anxiety about changes to their entitlements and are already suffering from the effects of around £6 billion of cuts taken from Scottish Welfare expenditure over the last five years.

“This is hugely concerning as the UK government should be looking to lift people out of poverty not push them further into it.

“Despite these frustrations we will do all we can to use our new powers to make our system fairer and simpler and work to improve the experience for people.

“We will work quickly to implement these changes and base our social security system on how best to support people and tackle inequalities and not on crude opportunities to save money.”

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