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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. 8 Sep 2021

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

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

  2. 28 Jul 2021

    by David Scott, CAS policy officer.

    This article was first published in the Herald on 28 July 2021.

  3. 7 Jul 2021

    by Debbie Horne, Senior Policy Officer (Social Justice).

    This column was first published in the Herald on 7 July 2021.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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
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