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Poorest are being hit hardest by UK-wide welfare reforms

PEOPLE living in Scotland's most deprived communities are being hit almost five times as hard by welfare reforms as those in the most affluent areas, with 12 of the 20 worst affected council wards being in Glasgow.

According to new research carried out for MSPs on Holyrood's Welfare Reform Committee, the changes will take £1.6 billion from the Scottish economy, equivalent to around £460 per year for every working-age adult.

Child Poverty Action Group Scotland called it "disgusting that we are ripping money out of the very places that need it most".

Research last year examined the impact the reforms have had within the 32 local authorities. But the follow-up work analyses all 353 wards, showing which communities will suffer most - with Glasgow's Calton top of the table.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University's Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research say the impact of welfare reform on St Andrews in Fife will amount to £180 annually for each adult aged 16 to 64, while the equivalent figure for Calton is £880.

Labour MSP Michael McMahon, the committe convener, said: "Evidence that we have received indicated our poorest communities are being hit hardest by welfare reform but we had no statistics to back this up. Now we have the evidence, right down to the electoral ward. From the witnesses that have come before us, we have always known that welfare reform is having a disastrous effect on individuals. Now it looks as if this is true for whole communities - in Glasgow, Dundee, Fife, the lower Clyde and beyond.

"We're sending this report on to all local authorities and the voluntary sector who will hopefully find it useful in planning their own responses to the difficult challenges welfare reforms are posing in their area."

Co-author Professor Steven Fothergill, who will give evidence to the committee tomorrow, said: "As in the rest of Britain, the cumulative effect of the reforms is not only to hit some of the poorest individuals hardest but also to hit the poorest communities much harder than the most affluent neighbourhoods."

John Dickie, of CPAG, said: "These unprecedented cuts are not only damaging families and undermining children's well-being, they are robbing local business of much-needed income and storing up huge costs in the long-term as we try and fix the health, educational and social damage poverty causes.

"UK ministers need to urgently rethink their misguided and fast unravelling approach to social security if they are not to condemn another generation to a life scarred by poverty."

The SNP's Jamie Hepburn said: "It is so depressing to see again in stark figures how areas that most need support are those hardest hit by these reforms. It should shame the UK Government to see this correlation between need and cuts."

The committee will meet again on Thursday to question Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, prompting Mr McMahon to say: "Not only do they refuse to undertake research like ours, but the relevant DWP minister continually refuses to talk to us on the record and in public."

A DWP spokesman said: "The truth is employment is up, unemployment is falling and our vital reforms are working. We are returning fairness to the welfare system and helping people lift themselves out of poverty by making work pay. We are transforming the lives of the poorest people in society and bringing sense back to the welfare system - keeping the benefits bill sustainable, so we can support people when they need it most."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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