Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) are to tell MSPs that the UK government’s Welfare Reform Bill is ‘dismantling’ the welfare system, and is set to have a ‘devastating’ impact on many people in Scotland, taking £2bn from the Scottish economy.
Appearing before Holyrood’s Scotland Bill committee today CAS will also say that the Scottish Parliament is not giving enough scrutiny to the ‘seismic’ impact the changes will have on Scotland, and needs to take the rare step of establishing a special committee to do this – even though the issue is reserved to Westminster.
In a letter to the Committee convener ahead of today’s evidence session, CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee says,
“The Welfare Reform Bill will have a major and damaging impact on the people, services and the economy of Scotland. As the current welfare system is dismantled, it is Scotland’s public and voluntary services that will need to pick up the pieces - at a time when they are facing huge cuts themselves. This ‘double whammy’ for the people of Scotland should be addressed by the Scottish Parliament.
“We believe a Welfare Reform Committee should be established for the lifetime of this parliament, so that it can analyse and scrutinise the welfare reform changes as they are introduced and implemented….There must be a role for MSPs to oversee how the changes affect Scotland’s citizens and services.”
In a written submission to the committee, CAS says the changes are so great that they need more organised scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament. The document says,
“Many people across Scotland will experience a significant detrimental impact as a result of the welfare reform proposals, especially disabled people, families and jobseekers.
“People with disabilities face the biggest impact from the proposed reforms. Re-assessments for sickness and disability benefits, alongside cuts in public services, will inevitably mean that many people will not receive the support to deal with their disabilities that they currently rely upon.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the principles of the Welfare Reform Bill, the fact must be recognised that the proposals as they stand merit much more scrutiny, investigation, and understanding.”
The document sets out a number of areas in which the reforms will hit the most vulnerable people, and also undermine the wider Scottish economy. These include the following points:
- An estimated £2 billion will be taken out of the economy in Scotland during the lifetime of this parliament, £1 billion of this will be taken from disabled people and their families;
- 190,000 sickness benefit claimants in Scotland are being re-assessed at a rate of 200 per working day, by a system which has been shown to be riddled with flaws;
- An estimated 75,000 disabled Scots face losing their entitlement to disability benefits (under changes to Disability Living Allowance) and Housing Benefit cuts will have a disproportionate impact on disabled people;
- Lone parents will be expected to go back to work when their youngest child reaches the age of 5 (the current age is 7);
- The new child maintenance scheme will be unaffordable to many single parents;
- Families with disabled children and people who care for their partner will receive a reduction in their financial support;
- Changes in Housing Benefit will reduce payments by around £38 million annually in Scotland;
- 55,000 Scottish households claiming Local Housing Allowance will lose around £10 a week. 7,500 claimants under the age of 35 will lose between £17 and £54 per week;
- 110,000 households where tenants are considered to be ‘under-occupying’ their homes will receive an average cut of £13 a week.
For more press and media information, or to set up interviews etc., please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655.
NB This is a Press Office number. If you require advice please contact your local CAB – you can do this by going back to our home page www.cas.org.uk
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
CAS have been invited to give evidence to the Scotland Bill Committee on this issue.
- We have submitted a detailed report, and a covering letter to the committee convener, Linda Fabiani MSP. (The letter is pasted below and the evidence report is attached).
- In addition, CAS Policy Officer Matthew Lancashire will give oral evidence to the Committee today (Tuesday 4 October) at 2.30pm.
The full Scottish Parliament is due to meet tomorrow (Wednesday 5 October) to debate and put in place the procedures for implementing the Welfare Reform Bill in Scotland. CAS will be urging MSPs of all parties to come to a decision then to set up a special Welfare Reform Committee.
In the last financial year Scotland’s CAB network dealt with a total of 545,000 cases. Of these, 190,000 were related to the welfare and benefits system. That’s over 500 such issues for every day of the year. This frontline experience enables the service to offer valuable insight into the problems inherent in the welfare system.
You can read the briefing on the Welfare Reform Bill by clicking here (link no longer available).
APPENDIX A – CAS LETTER TO SCOTLAND BILL COMMITTEE CONVENER
Linda Fabiani MSP
Scotland Bill Committee
Please find attached a submission from Citizens Advice Scotland in advance of the evidence session into welfare and benefits that the Scotland Bill Committee will hold on Tuesday 4 October and at which CAS looks forward to attending.
As you can see the submission is in four parts:
1. The impact that the reforms being proposed will have on the people of Scotland;
2. The impact that the reforms being proposed will have on services provided by both the public and voluntary sector in Scotland;
3. The impact that the devolving of various benefits to the Scottish Government will have on both people and services;
4. The impact the proposals in the bill will have on devolved areas that have not been considered or taken into account.
It is for these four reasons that we also recommend that the Scotland Bill Committee recommends the Scottish Parliament establish a specific Welfare Reform Bill Committee for the lifetime of this Parliament.
CAS believes that MSPs must have the opportunity to give due consideration and scrutiny to a bill that will have a major impact on people, services, and organisations across Scotland. Whilst we understand that the Legislative Consent Memorandum would be scrutinised by the Health and Sport Committee, we believe that the changes the Welfare Reform Bill will introduce are wide ranging, varied, and cross cutting and impact on the work of various committees and government departments including local government, housing, justice, and equality. That is why four leading children’s charities - Action for Children; Barnardo’s Scotland; Children 1st; and One Parent Families Scotland - have also recommended the idea of such an ad hoc committee.
As our submission shows the Welfare Reform Bill will have a major and damaging impact on people, services and the economy of Scotland. As the current welfare system is dismantled, it is Scotland’s public and voluntary services that will need to pick up the pieces - at a time when they are facing huge cuts themselves. This double whammy for the people of Scotland should be addressed by the Scottish Parliament.
That is why CAS is also of the opinion that this Welfare Reform Committee should be established for the lifetime of this parliament so that it can analyse and scrutinise the welfare reform changes as they are introduced and implemented. As the reforms are introduced over the next two to three years, there must be a role for MSPs to oversee how the changes affect Scotland’s citizens and services.
We also believe that a Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Bill Committee could help steer a way through the unanswered questions that have been posed by the proposals in the bill such as: how it will effect Scotland’s different policy positions particularly in social care and housing policy; how will the benefits that are being devolved be run at both national and local level; will there be any obligations and duties placed upon these levels of government as a result; what will the transitional arrangements be as benefits are devolved?
The Scottish Government has stated in written answers that it does not believe that the UK Government has provide sufficient detail on the implementation of its reforms on either the Scottish budget or local government budget - despite repeated requests – and that there is a need for the Scottish Government to look at repeals and changes in existing legislation and entitlement criteria. CAS would argue that a Welfare Reform Bill Committee could ask UK Government Ministers for evidence/submissions on the impact to Scotland that the planned welfare reforms will have and work with the Scottish Government on looking at the areas of legislation that will require change.
CAS should point out that we urge the Scottish Parliament to introduce such a Committee to allow for greater and wider scrutiny of the Welfare Reform bill not because we do not believe either the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament Health & Sport Committee cannot do so. CAS is well aware that the Scottish Government is keeping a close eye on the welfare reform changes and indeed CAS is a member of the Scottish Government’s Welfare Reform Scrutiny Group. This is an important Group which has played a key role in assessing the bill and should be maintained.
However CAS believes there is also a role for the Scottish Parliament to play in scrutinising the changes that will have such a major impact on Scotland’s people, services, and organisations. We strongly urge the Scotland Bill Committee, MSPs and the Minister for Parliamentary Business to establish a Welfare Reform Bill Committee.
Head of Policy and Director of External Services