‘UK benefits system is hindering child poverty action’, says Mason

04 Feb 2009

John Mason, the SNP MP for Glasgow East, has re-iterated his concern over the UK Government’s proposed benefits reforms following the publication of an independent report on child poverty in Scotland.

The new report, carried out for the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee, highlighted the failings of the current UK benefits system. According to the East End MP, who is the SNP Work & Pensions spokesman, these failings are unlikely to be addressed by the London Government’s current proposals to reform the system.

The new report found that many of those on benefits were unlikely to be better of as a result of returning to work. The report also showed that children in Scotland are more likely to miss out on experiences of childhood (holiday, sports, playgroup, school trips, etc) because of poverty than those across the UK.

Commenting on the report’s findings, John Mason said:

“This report highlights some of the serious problems that confront single parent families and unemployed people in the East End. For many of them the ‘benefits trap’, is not only a theory, it is the reality they are faced with every day.

“Whilst many parents whose children are living in poverty wish to train or to work they too often find they are penalised by the system for doing so, with people put off applying for work and college because they will lose benefit support

“If those returning to work are earning less than they would by staying on benefits, then it would be better to consider whether minimum wage is set at a high enough level, rather than look at changes to the benefits system.

“This study confirms that forcing people into work will do little to tackle child poverty and may make the situation worse. Given that this is part of the UK Government’s current plan for the benefit system, that is a matter of huge concern. “


The full report can be accessed at the link below – beginning on p15.


Extracts from the report produced by Hayton Consulting following a series of focus groups and interviews with low income parents and carers across Scotland includes;

2.39 – For single parents, with young children in particular in the current labour market and benefits system, moving into the labour market is unlikely to result in people being financially much better off. Even if child care can be provided at an affordable cost (which is very debatable) the way the benefits system works seems likely to mean that, even with tax credits, most will not be much better off. “

2.42 ….What there was evidence of was a perception that the type of jobs on offer and the possible reduction of benefits as a result of working would result in many being little better off, and possibly worse off, as a result of working. It is also the case that forcing people into work would do little or nothing to overcome child poverty. Indeed it is likely to make the situation worse.

3.4 Despite this it may be that the assumption that one way of overcoming child poverty is to ensure that all of those who are eligible for benefits receive them is flawed. The issue may have less to do with a failure to claim and far more to do with the relatively low levels of benefits paid.

7.9 It could be argued that the way to get those living in poverty into work is to reduce benefits. Yet this would do nothing to overcome poverty and nothing to help children. Indeed rather than benefits being too high it could be argued that wages are too low.

7.13 The big issues that could have a short term impact on child poverty (the levels of the minimum wage and benefits) are reserved to Westminster. Beyond lobbying, the Scottish Parliament can have limited impact upon them.

NOTE: John Mason is due to speak to the Westminster Education Forum seminar on ‘Eradicating’ Child Poverty and Improving Social Mobility, tomorrow – 5th February 2009. Event due to be held at 61 Whitehall, London.