Scope response to the Budget
21 March 2012
Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement of the possibility of a further £10 billion of cuts to welfare, Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, said:
“The Government is warming up the public for another big cut in welfare. Times are tough for everyone. But disabled people face spiralling living costs at the same time as their financial support and local social services are both falling away. They are already being hit disproportionately hard by the current programme of £18 billion of cuts to welfare support.
“Targeting welfare support where it is needed most is important. To do that correctly the Government needs to make accurate benefit decisions using a credible assessment process. But its bureaucracy is prone to administrative error and inaccurate decisions. Some 40% of appeals against its initial ‘fit-for-work’ decisions succeed.
“At a time of massive change to the welfare system, we are very concerned that the Government is planning to remove free legal advice for disabled people who challenge poor decision-making and red tape when it comes to the support and benefits they receive.
“Without the vital legal aid lifeline, many disabled people will end up on the wrong benefit or drop out of the system entirely. This will push even more people into poverty and make it harder for them to live independently and contribute to their community.
“We remind the Government that this budget’s allocation of £20 million a year to the charity advice sector for just two years is no substitute for the continued provision of legal aid during a period of upheaval in the welfare system. We therefore urge the Government to accept the amendment won in the House of Lords this month to keep legal aid for welfare benefit appeals and reviews."
Notes to the Editor:
Here is the text from the Chancellor’s speech that refers to welfare spending:
“We will also maintain our control on welfare spending. The passing of the Welfare Reform Act two weeks ago was an historic moment. I pay tribute to my Right Honourable Friend the Work and Pensions Secretary and to all my coalition colleagues for supporting him against determined opposition from those who defend unlimited welfare. But even with the Act, the welfare budget is set to rise to consume one third of all public spending. If nothing is done to curb welfare bills further, then the full weight of the spending restraint will fall on departmental budgets. The next Spending Review will have to confront this. So I am today publishing analysis that shows that if in the next Spending Review we maintain the same rate of reductions in departmental spending as we have done in this review, we would need to make savings in welfare of £10 billion by 2016.”
For more detail on this year's budget.
Here is the BBC's 'At a glance' run-down.
For information on the Government's plans for Legal Aid.