Parents, women and disabled losing most from welfare reform, research finds

It’s now three years since the Scottish
Parliament established a committee specifically tasked with scrutinising the effects of the
unfolding welfare reforms on the lives of people in Scotland. Our latest piece of evidence
is a major, in-depth study which provides an up-to-date snapshot of the financial impact
and the sorts of groups affected. For us on the Committee, the picture is unambiguous:
it’s getting harder and it’s families who are feeling the most pain. This is the
first piece of research that the Committee has done that has actually looked at the impact
of the welfare changes on individuals and households. It’s given us a very grim picture
that backs up the anecdotes of people who’ve come to the Committee to tell us about the
problems that they’re experiencing. It shows that over £960 million will be lost to individuals
and families in Scotland through these changes; that’s women, children, disabled people.
But it also shows us that it’s going to be impacting on people who are in work, low-paid
people. It’s an unacceptable situation that this research indicates, something that shouldn’t
be happening in a modern society and something we should not accept in the 21st Century.
The paper is the latest in a series of studies carried out by Sheffield Hallam University
for us and involved a massive trawl and analysis of data from a range of sources. But the figures
are stark; Lone parents with two or more children will lose more than £1,800 a year. For lone
parents with one child, it’s slightly less – £1,770. Couples with two or more children
will see £1,480 disappear from their budget while for those with only child it’s not
much better. And for a single person the annual loss is £490. The work carried out by the
committee constitutes a substantial and comprehensive body of work tracking the reforms as they’ve
happened. We on the Welfare Reform Committee hope the evidence and technical research like
this latest report – which are freely available to public and experts alike – will be used
to stimulate informed public debate on the subject – and also to formulate policy in
the future. What the evidence shows us, a lot of anecdotal evidence, and the experience
that we have had as elected representatives is that this is having a significant impact
on people. It’s very frustrating that that doesn’t seem to be recognised by the Westminster
Government. While the Scottish Government should be commended for mitigating against
some of these effects of the welfare reform, it’s very regrettable that that mitigation
is necessary. What we want is that the people who are making these decisions about the future
of the people of Scotland take cognisance of what the evidence is telling them: that
this is having a significant impact on the most vulnerable in our society. This latest
research underscores why the Scottish Government is to be commended for introducing measures
to alleviate some of the worst effects of the welfare reform agenda. We hope that research
like this will be used to guide those in power to help the people most in need of support.
This latest research and other material gathered by the committee can be accessed via our webpage
And you can join the debate on Facebook or Twitter.

Daniel Yohans

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