Scottish Government
Printable version

Fears for further UK Government cuts and austerity agenda

New report outlines need for fairer social security system.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil yesterday expressed concern at the further suffering and negative impact that will be caused if the UK Government carries out proposed £12 billion cuts to benefits.

Speaking out following the publication of the Welfare Reform Tracking Study which showed that many people accessing benefits are living in constant fear of further cuts, Mr Neil said he was worried that Scotland’s most vulnerable people would be pushed further into poverty and desperation.

The study, which looks at on-going changes to working age benefits, revealed all respondents, including those in work, found themselves in very difficult financial situations and therefore felt an underlying sense of ‘precariousness’. Many were anxious that changes to their circumstances or entitlements would push them into crisis situations.

In addition to this many participants said they received poor and sometimes conflicting communications from benefits agencies and there was a lack of clarity over information that was provided, bringing extra stress and uncertainty.

Disabled participants also felt they had to present themselves in a negative light and focus on their limitations rather than their capabilities, while the challenges of work capability assessments and repeat assessments for people with permanent disabilities were also highlighted.

Mr Neil said the findings of the study outlined exactly why the UK Government should urgently rethink their plans to further cut the welfare budget.

He said: “The UK Government’s austerity agenda and benefit cuts are having a very damaging effect on people in Scotland. Their approach is slashing the incomes of some of our poorest households and pushing 100,000 children into poverty.

“The Welfare Reform Tracking Study is further evidence that people are living in constant anxiety about changes to their entitlements and are already suffering from the effects of around £6 billion of cuts taken from Scottish Welfare expenditure over the last five years. This is hugely concerning as the UK Government should be looking to lift people out of poverty not push them further into it.

“Despite these frustrations we will do all we can to use our new powers to make our system fairer and simpler and work to improve the experience for people.

“We will work quickly to implement these changes and base our social security system on how best to support people and tackle inequalities and not on crude opportunities to save money.”

Notes To Editors

The Scottish Government commissioned Edinburgh Napier University to carry out the Welfare Reform Tracking Study with interviews with participants carried out between September 2013 and March 2015.

The report is available at: and the appendices:

Selected quotes from study respondents, on the experience of being on benefits and living on low incomes, are copied below:

Financial impacts

Continuing difficulty to manage financially even when taking up work, and constant feelings of precariousness:

“I’m finding it tight, and I’m having to really juggle things… I’m so aware that it’s a temporary contract and I can’t just dish out money.”

“One of us getting sick, that would just put the complete kibosh on [our arrangements]”

Mistakes with transitions between benefits causing gaps in payments:

“We weren’t told that ESA had been successful, we didn’t know what was happening at all… then all of a sudden we went and there was no money in our bank account, so we phoned them and asked why there was no money in our account… and they said the Incapacity Benefit claim was closed... We were given a number to phone for some centre, who were a bit snooty and cheeky about it, and they said you should have received a letter... but the first we knew about it was when there was no money in the account.”

Well-being impacts

Depression caused by an investigation into stopped ESA payments after care package payments wrongly interpreted as personal savings:

“I felt like I was a criminal, I was really depressed for a while, and really paranoid, the fact that they had looked into my bank accounts and I didn’t even know, I thought well what else are they doing, am I [under surveillance]? I’m ok now, but at the time I was just really stressed, and I didn’t deal with it very well, and I was just hating my disability, and hating the fact that I was on benefits.”

Emotional impacts of drawn out appeals processes:

“It took less than five minutes [at appeal] for that decision to overturn, and it’s wasted nearly five grand of taxpayers’ money, just for me to be subjected to that for nine months, worrying. It was affecting my mental health. And I can’t understand why if you’re appealing, why should you be subjected to work focused interviews? It’s as if they don’t want to believe.”

Stress during assessment process exacerbating existing health conditions:

“If you are someone who has a disability of this kind, you can’t be waiting months and months to hear whether you’re going to get a little bit of money, and in the process be stressed out which makes your condition worse.”

Negative impacts on confidence and outlook on life of disability benefits systems:

“You feel like you’re making it sound like you can’t do anything, whereas you can do a lot, and it makes you feel like you’re going backwards in terms of ability… I felt like I can’t do anything on paper! And [advocacy worker] would say yes you can, but you just need to be realistic. You feel like, especially if you’re being reassessed all the time, it kind of makes you feel like you can’t do things, it’s constant.”

Tension between caring responsibilities and requirements to work

Difficulty of reconciling work and school hours, and guilt about findings the right balance:

“[Daughter] comes back from school about quarter to 4, I get in about half 5, so she’s in herself, but she can do that now... My mum’s only a phone call away and I’ve got my neighbour upstairs, I just have to do it… the way I look at it you feel guilty either way, if you don’t work you feel guilty about not working cause you don’t give them enough money, and if you do work you don’t get to spend enough time with them, and you are neglecting them slightly by leaving them in by themselves, so you can’t win. So it’s just what I have to do.”

Incompatibility of caring for a disabled child and employment, and burden of participating in work preparation activity:

“Let them get up during the night and all the rest of it and barely have a night’s sleep, and see if they don’t think that’s an actual job… We’ve got it into a routine now and it works, but if [husband] went back to work or I went back to work, I don’t know how it would work. I’ve been called in to have these back to work meetings and the woman I got last time said I don’t know why we’re even reviewing you… I said you find me a job that can work around [daughter’s needs], and she kind of laughed… Fair enough I know it’s my responsibility to look after my child, but it’s hard going, and when you’ve got the pressures of the unemployment calling you in, and I’ve got to go thirty odd miles there and back, and then hospital appointments back and forth, and then you’ve got the added stress of being called into stupid meetings like that… I think for the work we do, we deserve that sixty pounds.”

Fear of future changes and negative impacts on well-being

Worry about negative financial impacts of forthcoming changes:

“You’ve got to prepare for the worst case scenario, and for me that would be the worst case, if they took away my DLA completely, I would be completely snookered, financially and everything.”

“[PIP] is a big worry, because we’re just covering the basics at the moment, so for any change or reduction there’s a big anxiety.”

Apprehension about changing assessment criteria:

“I don’t really know much about the PIP thing, except that the criteria seem to have been, the distance that you can walk has been tightened up, basically if you can stagger a step or something, and that’s worrying me. And I’m thinking what on earth is the point of reassessing me? …In theory I could walk about… but I don’t know where I’m going, I could fall off kerbs, walk into people, all sorts of things, but I’ve a feeling that PIP won’t take that into account.”

Uncertainty about timing of future changes:

“It’s always in the back of your mind that it’s coming, and it’s going to have to be dealt with. And the constant moving, I wish when they said they were doing it two years ago they just got on with it, rather than drag it out and keep moving it and moving it… who the hell knows when it’s coming? But it’s been a constant hassle for people all this time. Very unfair.”

“You can’t say, well, if I do this I’ll be ok for the next year, you cannot know that, because things are changing so often, which makes it hard to relax.”


Channel website:

Share this article

Latest News from
Scottish Government