Most marginalised ‘hardest hit’ by UK Government policies – report

Some of the most marginalised people in society are being worst hit by a combination of tax, spending and local services cuts, a study has suggested.

Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) indicates that as a result, household income has dropped for female lone parents by 7.8%, black families 6.5%, severely disabled people 5% and families with more than three children 8%.

While household income for the poorest in Scotland dropped by 5%, it has risen by up to 1% for the more affluent, according to the findings.

The report compares the impact across Scotland, England and Wales, calculating the expected reduction in household income over the period between 2010 and 2022.

It suggests Scotland has adopted more “pro-poor” policies over that time, resulting in a lower reduction in household income than elsewhere in the UK.

Total household income in England is projected to fall by £1,450 between 2011 and 2022, compared to £200 in Scotland and £470 in Wales.

The report recommends the UK Government should consider mitigating large negative changes to reduce disproportionate impacts on some groups.

It also suggests both Westminster and the devolved Parliaments should conduct equality analysis of spending plans specifically to identify areas of disproportionate impact on women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

John Wilkes, EHRC Scotland director, said: “The findings show just how stark and how unequal the combined impact of the recession, austerity and public spending cuts have been.

“Using this new approach to assessing the combined impact of tax and spend policy reveals that it is the most marginalised who have suffered the most.

“We already know that ethnic minorities, disabled people, and lone parents are much more likely to live in poverty than other Scots, and face far higher than average unemployment.

“What is unique about this work is that it shows that we can and must consider the different impacts on different groups before we make major policy changes.

“Otherwise, we risk increasing the inequalities in our society. Positive policies however such as mitigating effects of some social security changes has saved many from even greater income losses.”

Report author Howard Reed added: “This research shows that the combined impact of tax and social security reforms since 2010 has hit the poorest households in Scotland hardest.

“The Scottish Government’s own spending choices have mitigated some – but not all – of the adverse consequences of the tax and social security decisions made by the UK Government in Westminster.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “We reject this analysis, which doesn’t include recent announcements such as the five-year NHS settlement or the increase in Universal Credit work allowances.

“The report also predicts future spending, but the Spending Review next year will set out UK government plans beyond 2019-20.

“The Treasury, and other UK government departments, always considers how our policies will affect people of different incomes and those with protected characteristics such as race, religion and disabilities.”

A Scottish Government spokewoman said: “We welcome the report’s findings that Scottish Government spending choices and services have better protected family incomes, and led to better outcomes for disadvantaged groups, particularly people with disabilities, than in England or Wales.

“This report makes clear the damaging effects of the UK Government’s austerity programme. Policies that have been roundly condemned by many, including the UN Special rapporteur on extreme poverty who said they were causing hardship and misery.

“With overall spending per head on modelled services expected to be 36% higher in Scotland than in England by 2021/22, the report makes clear that austerity is not inevitable – different spending choices are possible, as Scottish Government actions have made clear.”