The Scottish government spent more than £100m (€117.5m) in 2019 to offset the impact of UK-wide austerity measures in Scotland.
Cuts to welfare implemented by the UK government are projected to reduce public spending on social security in Scotland by up to £3.7bn (€4.35bn) between 2020 and 2021. Funding provided by the Scottish government in 2019 for mitigation of the impact of austerity has gone towards supporting Scotland’s most economically vulnerable communities, with measures including:
- Discretionary Housing Payments aimed at supporting households subject to the ‘bedroom tax’, which penalises homes in receipt of housing benefit which are deemed to have a spare bedroom;
- Crisis grants distributed through the Scottish Welfare Fund;
- Increased flexibility in the distribution of welfare payments, enabling recipients to receive their Universal Credit allocation in fortnightly rather than monthly instalments or to channel housing payments directly to landlords; and
- Advice services for households affected by the UK government’s welfare reforms.
The government has also announced it will begin implementation of the Scottish Child Payment, a new initiative providing additional support for low income families who have children under the age of six. The first payments under the scheme are expected to go out by Christmas 2020.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We are spending more than £100m each year to mitigate the worst effects of UK government austerity – part of the £1.4bn we spent last year to support low income households. This essential funding could be better invested to help pull more people in Scotland out of poverty. A policy like the Scottish Child Payment, which we announced this year to tackle child poverty head-on, is an example of what we can do. Once fully rolled out in 2022, the benefit could help up to 410,000 eligible under-16s and lift an estimated 30,000 children out of poverty – and for families with a child under six, they will start benefiting by Christmas next year; but there is no doubt that without the cuts inflicted on families by the UK Government our funding could go so much further.”