Scottish Civil Society backs call to end the benefit freeze
Forty-five organisations across Scotland have called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to end the freeze on working age and children’s benefits in the November budget. Charities, trades unions and faith groups have joined to highlight the increasingly negative impact of the benefit freeze, particularly at a time of rising inflation. It is expected that the benefit freeze will be the main driver of rising poverty over the coming years.
The freeze on most working-age and child related benefits was announced in the 2015 Summer Budget and includes:
- Jobseekers’ Allowance
- Child and Working Tax Credit excluding disability elements
- Local Housing Allowances
- Income support
- Child benefi
- Work Related Activity Group Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal credit
The freeze means that these benefits will not be subject to uprating until 2019/20, and will remain the same cash value as in 2015/16.
Research from Sheffield Hallam estimates that the freeze in working-age benefits will lead to losses of £300m in Scotland per year. It is expected that this will affect 700,000 families in Scotland, with an average loss of £450 per year.
The organisations raised concerns that rather than creating a fairer social security system that supports people when they need it and helps them into employment, the freeze only serves to add pressure to already stretched budgets.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said:
“We believe that the time is right to reverse the freeze on working age and child benefits.
“If the Government is serious about supporting those who are ‘just about managing’ then it is vital that this unjustified and harmful policy is brought to an end.
“The freeze will have a lasting impact on the wellbeing of those affected by it, particularly children in Scotland and across the UK.
“We would urge the UK Government to invest the resources required in this Budget to provide a better social security system for those who need it.”
Emma Ritch, Director of Engender added:
“In the years of austerity since 2010, 86 percent of net ‘savings’ raised through UK Government cuts to social security and tax credits will come from women’s incomes. As a result of these cuts, women have been put at greater risk of deeper and sustained poverty, with significant reduction in living standards.”
“The freeze on working age and child benefits will only serve to exacerbate women’s poverty, and we urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use the Budget to end the freeze and help create a fairer social security system.”
Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said:
“As the cost of heating and eating continue to rise, the freeze in benefits is increasingly forcing people into poverty rather than supporting them out of it. That is neither good for those directly impacted nor for our society as a whole.
“In every part of Scotland, the Church is encountering people who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. That is not surprising. Since the freeze was put in place inflation is higher than was predicted so people on benefits have less money than was intended. On that basis alone, it is time to end the freeze.”
John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group said:
“The benefit freeze is pushing tens of thousands of children in Scotland and across the UK into poverty, with potentially devastating consequence for their health, education and long term life chances. The Chancellor must use this Budget to end the freeze and ensure that financial support for families, whether in or out of work, keeps pace with inflation.”
Bill Scott, Director of Policy at Inclusion Scotland added:
“Because of their exclusion from employment, disabled people are more reliant on benefits for some or all of their income. This means that the benefits freeze has a disproportionate impact on them. The freeze should end as it punishes the victims of discrimination and inequality.”
Derek Mitchell, CEO of Citizens Advice Scotland said:
“Of all the recent welfare reforms, the benefits freeze has had one of the biggest impacts on the incomes of households in Scotland, but is one of the least talked about.
“The money people receive has decreased in real terms, meaning more and more clients are struggling to make ends meet. A recent survey of CAB clients showed that, 40% on out of work benefits said they worried about money ‘all the time’ with 40% saying they ran out of money ‘more than once a month’. This is consistent with increased demand for advice regarding food parcels (171% increase) and Crisis Grants (47%) which bureaux have seen since 2013.
“It is time to end the benefits freeze to help lift these families out of destitution and poverty.”
Signatories to the letter:
|Alison Douglas||Chief Executive||Alcohol Focus Scotland|
|Rami Usta||Chief Executive||BEMIS Scotland (Empowering Scotland’s Ethnic and Cultural Minority Communities)|
|Annie Gunner Logan||Director||CCPS – Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland|
|John Wilson||Interim Chief Executive||Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland|
|John Dickie||Director||Child Poverty Action Group Scotland|
|Mary Glasgow||Interim Chief Executive||Children 1st|
|Jackie Brock||Chief Executive||Children in Scotland|
|Martin Johnstone||Secretary||Church & Society Council|
|Derek Mitchell||Chief Executive||Citizens Advice Scotland|
|Hugh Foy||Head of Programmes||Conforti Institute|
|Hilda Campbell||Chief Executive||COPE Scotland|
|Ewan Aitken||Chief Executive||Cyrenians|
|Layla Theiner||Director||Disability Agenda Scotland|
|Norman Kerr||Director||Energy Action Scotland|
|Ian Galloway||Chair||Faith In Community Scotland|
|Helen Moore||Chair||Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations|
|Tressa Burke||Director||Glasgow Disability Alliance|
|Helen MacNeil||Chief Executive||Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector|
|Margaret-Ann Brunjes||Chief Executive||Glasgow Homeless Network|
|Drew Smith||Scottish Political Officer||GMB|
|Mike Dailly||Principal Solicitor||Govan Law Centre|
|Ian Welsh OBE||Chief Executive||Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland|
|Nathan Sparling||Head of Policy & Campaigning||HIV Scotland|
|Bill Scott||Director of Policy||Inclusion Scotland|
|Pete Ritchie||Executive Director||Nourish Scotland|
|Satwat Rehman||Director||One Parent Families Scotland|
|Elaine Downie||Co-ordinator||Poverty Truth Commission|
|Mark Serwotka||General Secretary||Public and Commercial Service Union|
|Shona Stephens||Chief Executive||Queens Cross Housing Association|
|Alastair Cameron||Chief Executive||Scottish Churches Housing Action|
|Fiona Garven||Director||Scottish Community Development Centre|
|Martin Sime||Chief Executive||Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations|
|Janis McDonald||Chief Officer||Scottish Council on Deafness|
|Dave Liddell OBE||Chief Executive||Scottish Drugs Forum|
|Dave Moxham||Deputy General Secretary||Scottish Trades Union Congress|
|Agnes Tolmie||Chair||Scottish Womens Convention|
|Peter Kelly||Director||The Poverty Alliance|
|Tony Graham||Director of Devolved Nation||The Trussell Trust|
|Dave Watson||Head of Policy & Public Affairs||Unison|
|Pat Rafferty||Scottish Secretary||Unite the Union|
|Allan Johnstone||Acting Chief Executive||Voluntary Action Scotland|
|Bernadette Monaghan||Chief Executive||Volunteer Glasgow|
|Claire Stevens||Chief Officer||Voluntary Health Scotland|
|Grant Sugden||Chief Executive||Waverley Care|