Scottish Govt. Warning Over Under 25 Benefit Cuts

More than 20,000 children in Scotland would suffer if housing benefit for under-25s was removed, the Scottish Government has said.

Chancellor George Osborne suggested that savings could be made by stopping the benefit in a speech last week setting out plans to cut a further #25 billion from public spending after the 2015 election, including £12 billion from welfare. 

The proposal was described as ``seriously misguided'' by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. 

There are 20,059 children in the 32,736 households receiving the benefit in Scotland, according to Scottish Government analysis of figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

Ms Sturgeon said: ``Our analysis shows that if housing benefit were to be removed for all under-25s, over 20,000 children in Scotland would suffer as a result. 

``My main concern is the risk that this cut would pose to the 20,000 children who would need to be rehoused and would face the prospect of being made homeless. 

``As well as the impact on the children and families affected, the social and economic cost would far outweigh any savings that may be achieved. 

``We note the argument - not least in respect of the bedroom tax - that housing benefit expenditure has been growing. However, the growth in housing benefit expenditure is not of Scotland's making. 

``Over the decade to 2011/12, in inflation adjusted terms, the increase across Great Britain is 54% - and 93% of this increase is attributable to England, and 31% to London alone. In Scotland, the total cost of Housing Benefit has increased by 22% in inflation adjusted terms, while for the Scottish social rented sector, the increase was only 6%.'' 

A DWP spokeswoman said: ``Removing the spare room subsidy returns fairness back to the system - when in Scotland alone there are 158,000 on housing waiting lists and 25,000 living in overcrowded homes. 

``Scotland has also been allocated over £13.5m, specifically to help vulnerable tenants with the changes to housing benefit.'' 

Ms Sturgeon has requested a meeting with Mr Duncan Smith to discuss the proposals. ``Our Expert Working Group on Welfare is considering these and other principles as it explores how the benefits system should enable people who can work to move into sustained employment, and how it can support people who can't work to participate in society as fully as possible,'' she said. 

The group's recommendations are due to be published in the Spring in advance of the independence referendum. 

Mr Osborne's speech revealed rifts at the heart of the coalition Government, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stating the Conservatives were making a ''monumental mistake'' by imposing ''cuts for cuts' sake''. 

A Lib Dem spokeswoman said: ``These are proposals by the Conservatives which will be put to the public at a general election and on which people can then express a view. These proposals are not Coalition Government policy. 

``The Lib Dems want a stronger economy and a fairer society. Yes, we have to balance the books but we won't do that on the backs of the poor. 

``The Scottish Government have failed to outline the difficult decisions they will need to make under independence.''