Budget increased cash for Scotland - but will do nothing to counter welfare reforms
A leading body has urged the Scottish Government to counteract damning welfare cuts facing the country’s poorest
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £350m for Scotland in yesterday’s Spring budget speech.
But the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) warned the cash will do nothing to alleviate the hardship facing thousands of Scots ahead of April’s Universal Credit roll-out.
April sees three new welfare cuts cuts introduced: the child element of Universal Credit will be limited with claimants receiving a higher amount for their first child and a lower rate for other children; Child Tax Credit is being restricted to two children; and housing support for 18-21-year-olds will be removed – potentially leaving many homeless and destitute.
Mary Taylor, chief executive of SFHA, said she welcomed the increase in capital investment in Scotland but urged for a proportion of the cuts to be mitigated by Scottish ministers - as promised in the SNP's election manifesto.
“Those affected will be new claimants for Universal Credit in “full service” areas, and for them it will have a potentially catastrophic effect,” she said.
“They will not be eligible to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) - which have been used to mitigate against UK government welfare cutbacks.
“We urge the Scottish government to implement mitigation measures, as was pledged in the SNP election manifesto.
“We must remember the impending impact of cuts that have already been made. In 2017/18 will see the first full year of the reduced benefit cap, which was lowered from £26,000 to £20,000 from November 2016.
We urge the Scottish government to implement mitigation measures - Mary Taylor
“Sheffield Hallam University estimated 11,000 households in Scotland will be affected by the cap, many of whom will be families with three or more children.”
She said it seemed certain that as a consequence there will be an upsurge in child poverty. “The Scottish Government has made an enhanced DHP allocation, from £50.2 million in 2016/17 to £57.9 million in 2017/8, but this will not fully mitigate the problem in the way that was made possible for the bedroom tax,” said Taylor.
“Housing policy – devolved to Scotland – is moving increasingly further apart from welfare policy – reserved to Westminster. Whilst Scottish legislation on social housing gives access to a decent home at a modest rent in the social rented sector, Westminster’s approach to social security is making it increasingly difficult for people to pay for it.”
John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said cuts to Universal Credit have “left it hanging by a thread” and he warned: “Families with children are highly exposed to rising costs, stagnating wages and cuts to key benefits and will be pretty disappointed that this budget doesn’t give them the help, the breathing space, they are looking for.”