Fear charities won’t be able to meet demand created by welfare cuts


Society's most vulnerable could slip through the net due to charities workloads being increased as a result of welfare cuts blasts SCVO

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22nd July 2015 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Pressure mounting on charities to pick up the slack from ‘draconian’ welfare cuts could lead to society’s most vulnerable people slipping through the net a major voluntary sector organisation has claimed.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said the £12bn of welfare cuts in the welfare, reform and work bill voted through the UK parliament this week will dangerously add to the already growing pressure on third sector service providers.

SCVO’s most recent research, which surveyed Scottish charities and charity employees, found last year charities were already struggling due to increased demand.

Nearly 80% of charities said they had seen a “significant increase” in demand for services in 2014 and only 10% said they had seen no increase in demand.

A third of workers said they already felt over-stretched most of the time or all of the time and 62% said their workload had increase over the last 12 months.

Fear charities won’t be able to meet demand created by welfare cutsJohn Downie

Our fear is that we struggle to meet this demand and that vulnerable people slip through the net

John Downie, head of public affairs at SCVO, said: "The draconian welfare cuts that have just been voted through the UK parliament will shift responsibility from supporting the poorest people in our society from the state to the third sector.

“We are increasingly hearing from front-line organisations that are battling to support growing numbers of people through activities like foodbanks, advice services, and even activities like mental health services.

“The third sector is here to help society’s most vulnerable and it is full of passionate people and organisations that will go above and beyond to do so. However, our fear is that we struggle to meet this demand and that vulnerable people slip through the net.”

Citizen’s Advice Scotland (CAS) backed up the claim cuts would lead to an increase in demand for services. Earlier this month, it said that cuts would impact most sharply on those who are least able to cope, and that more people may be forced into poverty and to foodbanks as a result. Last year, Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau advisers saw a 71% increase in the number of people who needed to be referred to foodbanks.

Demand for services is increasing

80% of charities told SCVO they had seen a “significant increase” in demand for services in 2014.

62% of workers added that their workload had increased.

400% increase in demand for Trussell Trust foodbanks by the end of the financial year after the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

71% in referrals to foodbanks last year by Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau

1600 households in Scotland will be affected by the reduction in the benefit cap from £26,000 to £20,000 according to the SFHA.

49.1% of families in Scotland use working tax credits to buy essentials such as food and clothing for their family.

Keith Dryburgh, CAS policy manager, told TFN whenever the number of people in poverty rises pressure is put on the services it provides.

"We remain concerned that the impact of these cuts will hit those least able to cope with them,” he said.

"All Scottish CABs deal every day with people who are struggling in or near poverty, and these situations are often created or made worse by the impact of government policies on social security and tax credits.

“The CAB is the frontline service for many of the people who are most affected, so when these numbers increase it clearly puts pressure on our ability to meet the demand."

Previous welfare reforms are proven to have influenced foodbank use. After the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 the Trussell Trust saw a 400% increase in demand by the end of the 2012/13 financial year.

Lucy Keen from the Trussell Trust said: “Benefit delays and changes represent almost half of the number of people referred to Scottish foodbanks, with low income becoming the second biggest reason.

“Welfare reform was, in our experience, the biggest driver in the rapid increase in demand between 2012 and 2013. Other major drivers were, and remain, the rising cost of food and fuel and increasingly insecure nature of work.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has also said it expects the cuts will affect housing associations.

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the SFHA said the federation is wholeheartedly against removing the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds and the latest cuts will leave families worse off, making it harder for them to pay their rent – let alone escape the poverty trap.

She added: “As a consequence of these new cuts to welfare, reduced income and increased costs to housing associations – in terms of increased collection costs and bank charges – will make it more difficult to invest in new supply of affordable housing and will put more pressure on the social rented sector.”