How a decade of austerity has punished the poorest

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Cost of cuts: by 2022 80,000 more Scots children will have been plunged into poverty

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18th March 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Female lone parents, black families, severely disabled people and families with more than three children will be the biggest losers from a decade of austerity.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) analysed combined tax, spending and public services cuts and says that household income will fall by 8.5% for the poorest families.

Its new report looks at the cumulative impact of cuts and projects ahead to 2022.

By then 80,000 more Scots children will have been plunged into poverty.

In four years’ time, income for large families in Scotland will have fallen by 8%, by 7.8% for female lone parent households, by 6.5% for black households, 5% for severely disabled people and by 4% for younger people.

The biggest losers are families with at least one disabled adult and one disabled child, who stand to lose £5000 year on average, equivalent of one-tenth of their income, from tax and welfare reforms.

White households are predicted to lose on average £550 between 2012 – 2022, while black households lose over £2,900 and Asian households lose an average of £1200.

Women will lose an average £250 a year, compared to £40 for men, rising to over £1200 loss for women in the 35-44 age group, when they are likely to be raising children, compared with less than £350 for men.

John Wilkes, head of the EHRC in Scotland, said: “The findings show just how stark and how unequal the combined impact of the recession, austerity and public spending cuts have been. Using this new approach to assess the combined impact of tax and spend policy reveals that it is the most marginalised who have suffered the most. 

“We already know that ethnic minorities, disabled people, and lone parents are much more likely to live in poverty than other Scots, and face far higher than average unemployment. What this research clearly shows is that we can and must consider the different impacts on different groups before we make major policy changes. Otherwise we risk increasing the inequalities in our society. Positive policies in Scotland such as mitigating effects of some social security changes has saved many from even greater income losses”.

The report compares the impact across Scotland, England and Wales. Scotland is judged to have adopted more progressive policies – such as mitigating the impact of the bedroom tax - and as a result household income reductions are smaller than in England and Wales.

Total household income in England is projected to fall by £1,450 between 2011 and 2022, compared to £200 in Scotland and £470 in Wales.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the UK government mitigating large negative changes to reduce disproportionate impacts on some groups and the Scottish Government continuing to mitigate negative impacts through social security and spending policies.

It says that both governments should take into account the impacts of future spending plans on poorer households and protected groups.