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Rural Scots ‘suffer more than most’ from welfare cuts

Unemployed and disabled people in rural areas are suffering more than most from the huge cuts being made to the benefits system, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,

"For the last few years we’ve been showing how the welfare reforms are causing huge problems for vulnerable people all over the country. CAB advisers in every part of Scotland have seen a huge increase in their workload as they try to help the people affected.

“But we can report today that we are seeing particular evidence that people in remote and rural areas are having additional problems coping with these cuts.

“For example, transport links are so poor in many rural areas that unemployed people have to spend huge amounts of their small income just getting to and from jobcentre appointments or job interviews. And if they miss such appointments they can have their benefits cut. We have seen many such cases where people have been penalised in this way, for things that are not their fault.

“Lack of access to broadband is also a problem in many rural areas. Along with the distance and transport issues, this means that people often have to communicate with prospective employers and the jobcentre by telephone, which again is costly - particularly for those on low incomes.

“We don’t want to say that rural people are the only ones affected. The fact is that these welfare reforms are having a devastating impact on vulnerable Scots everywhere. But there is no doubt that those in remote and rural areas face additional burdens, and need even more help to cope with their impact.

“We have urged that Local Authorities and bus companies consider introducing more discount travel schemes for those who are on benefits, and that jobcentres apply more discretion in dealing with people who struggle with rural transport problems. But the real solution, of course, is for the government to halt these devastating reforms altogether and introduce instead a system that actually helps vulnerable people – urban as well as rural - and treats them with the dignity they deserve. ”

For more information, or to arrange interviews etc., please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655.