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  1. David Scott
    Publication date:
    January 2022

    A new CAS report looks at how UC supported five groups who seek advice from CAB every day: people who are newly out of work; people who are looking for work; people who are in work; people who are unable to work due to caring responsibilities or a disability; and finally people with children.

    Our research found real gaps in the support UC offered to these people. But our report also suggests fixes. Five policy changes would strengthen UC significantly, ensuring our social security system remains accessible and effective for everyone.

    With the cost of living continuing to rise, we need to ask if UC is a strong enough safety net. Investing in social security is the right thing to do for our economic recovery.

  2. David Scott
    Publication date:
    January 2022

    This report, the last in a three-part series on UC during the pandemic, sets out what lessons can be learned from the past 18 months to future-proof UC. Updating and contextualising our survey with data drawn from the Citizens Advice network across Scotland, this report outlines the fixes that are needed for UC to properly support five groups of people who seek advice from CAB every day:

    > People who are newly out of work
    > People who are looking for work
    > People who are in work
    > People who are unable to work due to caring responsibilities or a disability
    > People with children

    Citizens Advice Scotland is calling for:

    > Safe access to UC by introducing a non-repayable assessment period grant at the beginning of all UC claims and replacing the DWP’s debt recovery process with a revised system that better reflects people’s ability to pay
    > A permanent increase to the basic allowance of UC
    > A review of UC as an in-work benefit, including reintroduction of Work Allowances for everyone, to make sure UC properly supports those in employment
    > Protecting and uprating support for people with disabilities and caring responsibilities
    > Scrapping the benefit cap and the two-child limit

  3. Publication date:
    October 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland is pleased to respond to this Green Paper consultation on the future of disability support. Last year, the Citizens Advice network in Scotland gave out over 168,500 pieces of advice on disability benefits, making it our biggest area of advice.

    The experience of clients coming to the Citizens Advice network in Scotland for advice shows that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) disability benefits are often inadequate, difficult and complex to access, and can feature distressing and undignified medical assessments - all while being too restrictive in their eligibility criteria. Throughout this response, we draw on case examples from across Scotland and suggest solutions which would profoundly improve clients’ experiences.

    We welcome this Green Paper as the beginning of a discussion to improve the benefits and support available to people with disabilities, but caution that this should not be seen as a cost-saving exercise and should seek to maximise options and supports rather than limit them. As we will go into in more depth in the course of this paper, some of the proposals made in the Green Paper could lead to a better experience for many people, but more detail is required. Importantly, independent advice and advocacy should always be available for all who wish to access it.

  4. David Scott
    Publication date:
    September 2021

    The Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security (SCoRSS) is a coalition of organisations who advocate for a reformed social security system that reflects the five principles set out in our Principles for Change. SCoRSS (previously the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform) encompasses over 40 organisations from key third sector organisations, charities, faith groups, and unions. Our members have a diverse range of experience and expertise and a strong understanding of social security and its impact on the people and communities we work with.

    Focusing on the impact the £20-a-week cut to UC will have to Scotland, our briefing shows that:

    • Nearly three quarters (74%) of Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau clients on UC will struggle if the cut goes through;
    • 1 in 4 people claiming UC in Scotland say they are ‘very likely’ to need to skip meals when the cut hits, and 17% say they are very likely to use a food bank;
    • As many as 4,000 low-income households (8,000 children) will lose entitlement to Scottish Child Payment if the cut goes ahead, due to the passporting of Scottish Child Payment from UC, meaning these families may face an income cut greater than £20-a-week; and
    • More than half a billion pounds a year will be removed from the Scottish economy, cutting support for some of the most deprived parts of the UK.

    SCoRSS is calling for the £20 weekly increase to Universal Credit to be made permanent.

  5. David Scott
    Publication date:
    September 2021

    This report, the second in a three-part series on UC during the pandemic, covers our clients’ experiences living on UC during the pandemic. Our research found that rising costs during the pandemic have pushed an already-too-low social security system to breaking point:

    • 67% of people surveyed said the UC payment they received was inadequate for their needs, with more than half of these people (55%) describing UC as ‘very inadequate’.
    • Over seven out of ten (71%) said the amount of UC they received was lower than they are used to living on.
    • More than a third (38%) said their outgoings had increased in the period before they had to claim for UC and now, with a majority (56%) reporting that their spending had gone up on necessities like heating and electricity (50%), food (40%), and housing costs aside from rent (27%).
    • Almost two in three (64%) had to cut down on at least one basic necessity during their UC claim, with one in five (20%) cutting down on food.
    • Over one in four (27%) had to borrow money in order to pay for essentials.

    With this in mind, the UK Government’s decision to cut UC by £20 a week in September is a step in the wrong direction. Our research found that:

    • Most said they would be unable to cope if their UC income dropped, with 61% unable to cope if it dropped by £10 per week, 74% unable to cope if it dropped by £20 per week, and 78% unable to cope if it dropped by £30 per week.
    • If these cuts went ahead, 26% said they would be unable to pay for essentials and 14% said they would be unable to buy food.

    The UK Government must urgently review and uprate the level of support UC offers to ensure no-one is left without essentials. Increasing UC is the right thing to do, both to protect individuals from hardship and to support our post-pandemic economic recovery.

  6. David Scott
    Publication date:
    September 2021

    The UK Government is proposing to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week from October 6th, reinstating it to pre-pandemic levels. CAS research shows that even with the increase, people on UC have struggled. Any cut will hurt people on UC and harm the government’s own Plan for Jobs and levelling up agenda.

    CAS recommends cancelling the cut and permanently increasing UC’s basic allowance.

  7. Publication date:
    September 2021

    Following CAS’ initial 2021 submission to the Low Pay Commission, we had further engagement from advisers in the Citizens Advice Bureau Network’s Employment Specialist Forum. Advisers shared additional insight and evidence from their frontline experience on issues for low paid workers, including:

    • Low pay and non-payment of statutory minimum wage rates
    • Furlough and Covid-19 changes
    • Social security
    • Enforcement of employment rights
  8. Publication date:
    September 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) gathers evidence from the more than 171,000 clients a year supported by our network. Many of the problems faced by our clients are rooted in or linked to their incomes not being enough to meet their needs and live a dignified life. For many people coming to see us they simply do not have enough money to make ends meet: YouGov in May of this year indicated 1 in 7 Scots is struggling on their present income even with the temporary financial support measures put in place as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 56% or half a million pieces of advice provided by our network every year can be attributed to income maximisation. During the pandemic CABs unlocked £147million for people through things like social security payments, employment entitlements and lower bills for utilities. A Minimum Income Guarantee would mean the Citizens Advice network could ensure people have even more security and opportunity.

    This evidence base, from over 80 years as Scotland’s largest free, impartial and confidential advice network, gives CAS a unique understanding of the issues that IPPR proposes could be addressed by a Minimum Income Guarantee. In addition, our experience supporting clients over the course of the pandemic shows that even those who were coping before the crisis still found themselves vulnerable if their income dropped or costs went up even slightly.

  9. Publication date:
    August 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland welcomes the positive changes made so far in the latest version of the regulations, but based on evidence from clients and advisers with experience of the current social security system, some concerns remain in a number of areas.

  10. Publication date:
    July 2021

    Between December 2020 and March 2021, the Scottish Government consulted on the first draft of new regulations for Adult Disability Payment (ADP). In June 2021, the Scottish Government published their response to this consultation. Citizens Advice Scotland welcomed encouraging signs in the latest government proposals, but CAS is calling for further change to get Adult Disability Payment right for disabled people in Scotland.

  11. Publication date:
    July 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) warmly welcomes the increased payment of the Carer’s Allowance Supplement. CAS recommended that the Carer’s Allowance Supplement be doubled again, to provide additional financial support to carers, in our October 2020 response to the Social Security Committee’s COVID-19 inquiry and are pleased to see this recommendation taken forward by the Scottish Government.

    CAS believes the main purpose of carer’s social security payments should be to equally to compensate carers for income that would have been earned through employment, recognising the equal value of the work that is caring. Whilst there is more to be done to ensure that carers have the financial support they need and social security system they deserve, this further additional payment is a welcome step in the right direction.

  12. Publication date:
    July 2021

    CAS supports in principle Scottish Ministers having the ability to suspend payment of disability assistance in certain prescribed circumstances, particularly when it would prevent a claim being closed altogether. CAS welcome the safeguards introduced and have one recommendation as to how safeguarding could be improved.

    The absence provision to suspend can create particular difficulties for children whose parents separate, for example due to domestic violence, and the parent in receipt of the benefit is not the parent who has custody of the child. However, CAS hope this power will only be used in limited circumstances. CAS welcome that entitlement will be maintained in suspension cases prescribed.

  13. David Scott
    Publication date:
    July 2021

    This report, the first in a three-part series on UC during the pandemic, covers our clients’ experiences applying for UC and the circumstances that led them to seek advice from CAB. Our research found that, despite UC performing well under the strain of the pandemic in some respects, there is significant need for improvement, with many long-standing issues with its design causing stress, anxiety, and hardship:

    • Over 7 in 10 people (72%) found the application process for UC stressful.
    • More than a third (36%) encountered at least one problem during the application process, including problems gathering supporting evidence and dealing with UC’s digital-by-default design.
    • Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) found it difficult to get information on applying for UC, before they sought help from CAB.
    • Almost 1 in 4 (24%) reported that the information they found from DWP on applying for UC was unhelpful.
    • Almost half (47%) did not find it easy to contact the DWP.
    • Almost half (48%) said they had to borrow or take an advance to get through the five week wait.
    • Among clients that borrowed to get them through the five week waiting period, the majority (65%) said they will find it difficult to repay the loan.
    • Overall, less than half (41%) were satisfied with the default process of applying for UC, with 14% very dissatisfied.

    Our research highlights that difficulties with the application process are disproportionately encountered by older people, disabled people, single parents, and those who are currently unemployed or economically inactive. Making positive changes to these elements would increase the accessibility of social security for all.

  14. Debbie Horne
    Publication date:
    June 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland recommends the draft regulations are amended to change or clarify a number of areas to improve the social security support provided to disabled adults in Scotland through Adult Disability Payment. 

  15. Publication date:
    May 2021
  16. Building Social Security Back Post-Pandemic
    David Scott
    Publication date:
    May 2021

    The last year has shown the vital importance of our social security safety net. However, Universal Credit (UC) is unlikely to feature in the Government’s legislative agenda tomorrow. This risks missing lessons from the pandemic. While UC survived the influx of new claimants—in part by easing verification procedures and conditionality—fundamental aspects of its design have continued to put people in hardship. Reform is urgently needed so people have security and support as furlough is withdrawn and the economy reopens.

    CAS is calling for:

    › A review of UC’s adequacy as an in- and out-of-work benefit, with the £20 a week uplift made permanent

    › Restoration of Work Allowances for all people on UC and a review of the Taper Rate

    › The continued suspension of the Minimum Income Floor, with permanent changes to how self-employed income is assessed for UC going forward

    › The introduction of a non-repayable assessment period payment to replace the current five week wait and Advance Payment system

    › The ending of sanctions and unaffordable deductions

    › Wider access to offline options for making and maintaining a UC claim and the introduction of implicit consent for CAB and other welfare rights advisers

    › A fair, flexible, and safe transition to UC for those on legacy benefits, with an extension of the uplift and freedom to return to legacy benefits if UC entitlement is lower

  17. Publication date:
    February 2021
  18. Publication date:
    February 2021
  19. David Scott
    Publication date:
    February 2021

    The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2021, passed yesterday on Tuesday 9th February, increases social security payments by the rate of CPI inflation (0.5%) from 1st April 2021. However, if the £20 a week uplift to UC is not made permanent in the Budget, this uprating is negated. From April, if the £20 weekly uplift is removed the value of UC’s Standard Allowance will drop by as much as a quarter (25%), when people need this money most. Removing the £20 a week uplift will leave the Standard Allowance for UC worth less in real terms in 2021-22 than when it was first introduced 8 years ago in 2013.

    CAS is calling for: The £20 a week uplift to be made permanent

  20. David Scott
    Publication date:
    February 2021

    The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2021 increases social security payments by the rate of CPI inflation (0.5%) from 1st April 2021. CAS welcome any increase to social security payments including Universal Credit (UC). However, current legislation prevents the future of the temporary £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit (UC) from being included in this annual review of benefit rates – at a time when uncertainty around the future of the £20 uplift is growing. Due to the benefits freeze from 2016 to 2019, UC rates remained at 2015/16 levels, meaning that in real terms the value of social security payments have fallen.

    If the £20 a week uplift to UC is not made permanent, any inflation-related uprating is negated. People on UC are at risk of a serious shock to their income, including the millions claiming for the first time as a result of the pandemic. To avoid a rise in poverty, greater strains on public services and harming economic recovery, the £20 a week uplift must be maintained.