Citizens Advice Scotland have said the Scottish CAB service needs more resources to enable it to help those Scots who are suffering the harsh impact of the UK government’s Welfare Reforms.
As the Scottish Parliament discusses the issue today, CAS spokesperson Jeanette Campbell says,
“The changes to the welfare system are really hurting some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland – including sick and disabled people, and those who are living in poverty. The CAB service is a vital lifeline for these people, and yet the fact is that we are not receiving sufficient funds to enable us to cope with the huge extra demand our advisers are seeing.
“For example, we have spent the last few years highlighting the major flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and how it is wrongly passing many seriously disabled people as ‘fit for work’. These cases are hugely time-consuming and stressful for both the CAB and the clients. Over the past two years Scottish CAB advisers have seen a 61% increase in the number of new ESA cases. In March 2012 alone, Scottish CABs dealt with 122 new ESA issues every working day. And these cases are complex and lengthy, often taking up days or even weeks of an advisers’ time.
“But the ESA is only one part of the welfare reform process. There are many others, and they are all hitting vulnerable people hard. And when people have problems with their benefits, this often leads to other problems which need further advice, like debt, housing issues, relationship problems etc.
“The CAB is rightly respected for providing quality, independent advice. But such advice costs money, and the main funders of CAB advice are local authorities, who are themselves suffering cutbacks, so most local CABs are losing core funding, even as the demand for urgent welfare advice increases.
“Yet, good advice ultimately saves money. Debt and welfare advice is significantly cheaper than homelessness and bankruptcy, and the social outcomes for clients are far better.
“Cuts in CAB funding will inevitably lead to delays in advice or to people not receiving the advice that they desperately need. Total funding for Scotland’s CABs reduced by 9% (or £1,436,761) in 2011/12, and we expect this financial year to be similar. The government must act to release all available funds to protect and support the quality service the CAB provides. The people of Scotland have never needed it more.”
CAS issued a briefing to MSPs in advance of today’s debate, calling for the Scottish government to make available more funding for Scottish CAB – specifically to help them cope with the extra demand brought forward by the welfare reform bill.
Key Extracts from the CAS report are:
• Together, Scottish CABs collectively helped clients with almost 560,000 new issues last year – that’s one issue for every minute of the year.
• Between them, Scottish CAB advisers won back almost £126million for these clients (e.g. through unclaimed benefits, with-held wages etc). This was in return for total CAB funding of £16.3million. In other words, Scotland’s CAB clients were better off by £8 for each £1 of core funding given to the CAB. And that doesn’t take into account the amount saved through avoiding the cost of homelessness etc.
More details at www.cas.org.uk
For more information please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.