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Spotlight on: Social Security benefits

CAS believes that aspects of UK welfare changes will be damaging to Scotland’s people, services, and economy. 

Welfare reform, public service cuts, and the economic climate are combining to place enormous pressure on public services and advice services. On top of this, reductions in benefit levels and eligibility will inevitably drive demand for advice provision at the same time as cuts are being felt across the public and voluntary sectors. Local government and voluntary services may have to pick up the pieces for those affected by welfare reform – all on a shrinking budget.

As client issues with welfare also create problems in many other areas of life including debt, housing, consumer and relationship issues, we expect welfare reform changes to put exceptional pressure on advice services and other areas of the third sector across the country. Early intervention, such as 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. Local authorities, the Scottish CAB Service and other organisations across the third and public sectors have a shared agenda in helping local people avoid crisis point and are increasingly working in partnership to achieve positive outcomes for the people and communities of Scotland.


  1. 22 Nov 2023

  2. 21 Nov 2023

  3. 18 Nov 2023

    by Erica Young, from the CAS social justice team.

    This article was first published in the Herald on 18 November 2023.


  1. CAS Responds

    Publication date: April 2023

    We have responded to the Scottish Government's consultation on how the mobility component of the new Adult Disability Payment is working.

  2. David Scott

    Publication date: July 2022

    The last few years have been extraordinarily tough. The pandemic left 1.8 million people in Scotland financially worse off, and even before the most recent increase in the energy price cap one in three people found their bills unaffordable. Now people are faced with a perfect storm of soaring prices and flat or falling incomes, which risks sweeping tens of thousands of people across the country into poverty, problem debt, and destitution.

    Those relying on the social security system are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Just over 447,500 people across Scotland are on UC – equivalent to more than one in ten working age adults in Scotland and almost double the number before the pandemic. Getting social security right is vital to help these people weather the storm.

    Recent data from across the Citizens Advice network in Scotland shows the hardship people are facing every day:

    • Advice need for food banks has grown by almost a third (31%) since September 2021.
    • Advice need for other charitable support, including fuel bank referrals, saw a sharp increase of 23% between September 2021 and December 2021, likely reflecting the additional pressure of winter heating bills.
    • Advice on UC sanctions has grown by 53% over 2021-22.
    • Advice on UC Budgeting Advances has risen by 25% over 2021-22.
    • Advice on UC Overpayments nearly doubled from the average across 2020/21 to Q4 of 2021/22.

    Behind each of these statistics are real people. In this report we highlight four real Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) client stories which show the incredible difficulties many people on UC are facing daily. Their names have been changed to protect their anonymity, but their stories demonstrate the reality of the cost of living crisis and the need for further support.

  3. David Scott

    Publication date: June 2022

    The cost of living crisis is squeezing household finances across the country. Across the Citizens Advice network in Scotland, we’ve seen an uptick in advice need for energy bills, debt, and food bank referrals. Since September 2021:

    • Advice need for food banks has grown by almost a third (31%)
    • For other charitable support, including fuel bank referrals, advice need has increased by 23%
    • Advice on Budgeting Advances has increased by 25% over 2021–22
    • Advice on sanctions has grown by 53% since the start of 2021-22

    While one-off payments will have provided some relief to people in the short-term, the further planned energy price cap increase in October and higher energy needs in winter mean that the cost of living crisis is unlikely to end in the next few months. Long-term thinking is needed to ensure our social security system is accessible to everyone and offers the right level of support for today’s skyrocketing prices.

    CAS recommends:

    • An immediate uprating of Universal Credit’s basic allowance to present inflation rates and the implementation of a more responsive system to keep track with inflation.
    • Further emergency targeted support for those on the lowest incomes.
    • A continuous review of the adequacy of social security payments to ensure they meet everyone’s needs.
    • Scrapping the benefit cap and the two-child limit.
    • Ensuring any uprating of Universal Credit is extended to all legacy benefits.
    • Reduce all deductions for DWP and HMRC debt to the 5% minimum until the DWP’s debt recovery process can be replaced with a revised system based on a robust holistic affordability check that better reflects people’s ability to pay, such as the Common Financial Statement.
    • Writing-off historic Tax Credit debt and other historic benefit overpayment debt.
    • Abolishing the five week wait by introducing a non-repayable assessment period grant at the beginning of all UC claims.
    • Suspending the use of sanctions until the cost of living crisis is over.
    • Automating where possible the process for claiming the State Retirement Pension and Pension Credit.
    • Developing and publishing an uptake strategy for the DWP to increase claims for pension-age support.
  4. David Scott

    Publication date: June 2022

    Key Points

    • CAS is pleased to respond to this call for evidence on health assessments. We have long been calling for fairer processes which put people’s rights at the heart of it, and we want to see a fairer system of dignified, accessible, timely, and fair medical assessments that provide disabled people with the support they are entitled to.
    • Although there will be no new claims for PIP due to the full implementation of Adult Disability Payment across Scotland from 29 August, we have responded to the questions relating to the future of PIP as we have a wealth of data and experience on the administration of PIP.
    • CAS has restricted its responses to those where we have robust data to inform our responses.


    • A range of assessment types should be available, face-to-face, telephone and in person, and the client should be able to choose their preferred method. Outcomes for each method should be monitored to ensure parity.
    • Descriptors for both PIP and ESA should be reviewed to better reflect social and human rights models of disability and move beyond assessing a lack of functionality.
    • The use of lived experience panels and user groups involved in the design and development of any changes made to the claims and assessment processes.
    • Consideration should be given to the Social Security Scotland approach to assessment, in particular:
      • The use of specialist assessors;
      • Bringing the assessment 'in-house';
      • Gathering evidence on behalf of the client; and
      • Making a medical assessment the last resort.
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