Scotland politics

Benefits recipients 'living in fear of cuts', says report

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Image caption Participants of the Napier University study spoke of stress and anxiety brought on by benefits assessments

Welfare reforms are making people live in "constant fear" of cuts to their benefits, according to a report.

The study by Napier University found those on benefits were anxious that changes to their circumstances would push them into "crisis situations".

Scottish Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil urged the UK government to rethink its reforms.

But the Department for Work and Pensions said the changes were designed to help people into work.

The Welfare Reform Tracking Study, which was carried out by Edinburgh Napier University on behalf of the Scottish government, also highlighted criticism of how the details of reforms were communicated to recipients of benefits.

Some disabled people who took part in the study said they felt they had to present themselves in a "negative light and focus on their limitations" when claiming.

'Damaging effect'

Other participants spoke of stress, anxiety and depression brought on by assessments, and a fear of further changes.

Mr Neil accused the UK government's "austerity agenda and benefit cuts" of having a "damaging effect" on people in Scotland.

He added: "Their approach is slashing the incomes of some of our poorest households and pushing 100,000 children into poverty.

"The 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 £6bn of cuts taken from Scottish welfare expenditure over the last five years.

"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."

'Safety net'

However, a spokesman for the Department of Work and pensions said the reforms were about giving people peace of mind.

He added: "Reforms to welfare are designed to help people into work, giving more people the peace of mind and security that comes with a steady income - there are now near record numbers of people in Scotland in a job.

"The government provides a safety net to support millions of people who are unemployed or on low incomes, spending £94bn a year across the UK on working age benefits."

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