60,000 Scottish households face hardship from changes to housing benefit

7,500 young people, 25 – 34 year olds, are set to lose nearly £55 a week from April when they will no longer receive support for their own homes and will be forced into shared accommodation.

In the coming weeks, the UK government is also set to publish a Welfare Reform Bill which is expected to propose further extensive cuts and changes to welfare and benefits.

The Scottish Government said that an expert group will be established in response to the impending and proposed changes.

The group of Scottish Government, local government, charity and third sector organisations will share knowledge of local impacts to take the strongest possible case for stopping some measures to the UK government.

The Scottish Government will also press for the devolution of powers on welfare and benefits.

Alex Neil said:

"The veil has been lifted off the UK government’s reckless and ill thought through policies.

"We have exposed that thousands of families and elderly people in Scotland are going to feel the full force of savage cuts by the UK government, on top of the rises in VAT and inflation.

"There needs to be welfare reform but these measures are penalising the very people we should be protecting. It’s slash and burn economic policy, cutting too fast, too far and too quick and will force people out of their homes.

"In Scotland, we will be working with our third sector groups and local government to ensure we can continue to take the strongest possible case to the UK government to think again.

"We will also be protecting household budgets with innovative home-grown policies such as school clothing grants, freezing council tax, free heating help and abolishing prescription charges.

"The important thing now is for Scotland to have more powers to boost our strategy for economic growth and help people back into work, for example through control over Job Centre Plus so we can streamline health, employment and training services."

Cllr Harry McGuigan, Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing and Safety, COSLA said:

"It is clear that the UK budget cuts and welfare reform will have a disproportionate effect on Scotland and Scottish Local Authorities. The UK government decision to cut benefit levels and limit eligibility for welfare will seriously and significantly damage the welfare of individuals and families, resulting in increased poverty and heightening demand for Scottish local authority services.

"Transferring demand from one layer of government to another is not responsible economic planning and it certainly isn’t in the interests of the vulnerable in our communities who will be forced more and more towards expensive crisis interventions.

"We support reform that eases bureaucracy. And we support reform which removes barriers from welfare into work. We do not support reform that arbitrarily shifts the goalposts for those in need of benefit.

"We do not support reform which could intensify geographic deprivation – creating ghettos of poverty in Scotland. And we do not support reform which punishes people for being unable to take up a job where no jobs exist.

"Instead of reducing poverty, the UK Government has instigated a proposal which will push more people into poverty, reduce the money being spent in local communities, and increase demand for already stretched public services."

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity, said:

"These reforms come at a time when more people are facing homelessness. Ministers must ensure the reforms don’t derail Scotland’s progress towards the Scottish Parliament’s commitment to give everyone the right to a home by 2012.

"By denying single homeless people a one-bedroom flat in the private sector and by forcing families to make up the shortfall in their rent or buy food, these reforms will trap even more people in poverty.

"These changes ride roughshod over the devolved power of housing in Scotland and are a direct attack on the aspirations of homeless people trying to rebuild their lives."

Mary Taylor, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Chief Executive, said:

"The SFHA welcomes the Scottish Government’s study on the impacts of proposed Housing Benefit changes, and its findings which highlight the detrimental impact the UK Government’s proposed reforms will have on the most vulnerable.

"Housing associations and co-operatives and their tenants will be adversely affected by these measures, especially proposals for those deemed to be "under-occupying" their homes and a 10% cut for those on Job Seekers Allowance for more than one year.

"As a member of the Scottish Government’s Housing Benefit stakeholder advisory group we will continue to work to try to influence the UK Government to rethink these changes, and we look forward to contributing to the new Welfare Reform Scrutiny Group. These changes will impact disproportionately on some of the most vulnerable people in our society and should be scrutinised more closely. The SFHA wants to see politicians, policy makers and practitioners working together to develop a fairer system of supporting the vulnerable."

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