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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. 29 Nov 2021

    by David Scott, CAS Policy officer (Social Justice team).

    This column was first published in the Herald on 29 November 2021.

  2. 29 Nov 2021

    Citizens Advice Scotland has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Child Payment will double to £20 per week in April,

  3. 8 Sep 2021

    by David Scott, CAS policy officer (Social Justice team).

    This article was first published in The Herald on 8 September 2021.


  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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