Local authorities and the Scottish Government are spending over £100million every year to mitigate the austerity measures introduced by consecutive UK Governments. Governments under the LibDem/Conservative Coalition and the Conservatives successfully introduced cuts to welfare and changes to the benefit payment system that have resulted in incredible hardship.
In Scotland the Scottish Government and local councils have had to:
- help 70,000 people over the Bedroom Tax
- help 265,000 households with the Welfare Fund since 2013
- contribute £1.5million to the Fair Food Fund
Local Authorities bear the brunt of helping people over the festive period. You can find the help available in Orkney here: Orkney Christmas Contacts for Homeless Service & Social Care
Third Sector organisations have increasingly taken on the role of helping people as a result of the welfare cuts and a system now failing those most in need.
Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in the UK.
Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food.
Research produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation states that 14 million people, that is 1 in 4 of us in the UK now lives in poverty:
- 8,000,000 adults
- 4,000,000 children
- 1,900,000 pensioners
and 8 million of these are in working families: the working poor.
“Changes to benefits and tax credits for working-age families are reducing the incomes of many of those on low incomes. High housing costs continue to reduce the incomes available for those in poverty to meet other needs. Inflation is rising and is higher for those on lower incomes than for better-off groups.
“This squeeze on living standards is also storing up problems for the future; a fifth of people on low incomes have ‘problem debt’; most are not building up a pension; the decreasing proportion of the working-age population buying their own home means that in the future more older people are likely to rent and have higher housing costs in retirement.”(Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
Angela Constance, Communities Secretary in the Scottish Government said:
“It is staggering that we have to spend more than £100 million every year to plug a gap created by the UK Government so that we can try to keep people from even further hardship. It is not acceptable in 2017 that people find themselves in these situations through no fault of their own.
“The Scottish Welfare Fund continues to provide a vital lifeline, supporting over a quarter of a million low-income households in the last four years. For many, it provides much needed help for basic, everyday items. “
The Scottish Welfare Fund was set up in April 2013. Administered locally it deals with Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants.
The Scottish Welfare Fund:
- provides a safety net in a disaster or emergency, when there is an immediate threat to health or safety.
- enables people to live independently or continue to live independently,
preventing the need for institutional care.
Over one third of the recipients of the funds go to single parent families who use them for everything from floor coverings to essential heating and even to nappies.
People are having to ask for emergency help just to get by, not for luxuries but for everyday items. Due to year on year cuts and changes to the welfare system and a rising cost of living we have millions of people and families in crisis.
Jeane Freeman, Social Security Minister in the Scottish Government has pledged that in Scotland there will be a “welfare system that treats people with respect and dignity.”
“We know the impact the UK Government’s harsh welfare cuts is having on people and have repeatedly warned that the chaotic roll out of Universal Credit, particularly the in-built six week delay for first payment, is pushing more households into crisis.”
Reporter: Fiona Grahame