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10 December 2015, 07:52
More than a third of welfare claimants are unable to get by on the benefits they receive, according to new research.
A survey by Citizens Advice Scotland of 601 claimants found that 34.2% reported they often ran out of money or were forced to turn to friends, family or food banks for support.
CAS released the figures in a new paper setting out its vision for a "fair, equal and responsive'' Scottish social security system after the devolution of new welfare powers through the Scotland Bill.
The organisation said the new system must be based on clear rights and responsibilities as well as being responsive to need, transparent, accountable and fairly administered.
A Scottish social security system must also be integrated with other services and be developed in consultation with those who use it, CAS said.
It has specifically called for a fairer assessment system for disability benefits, more flexibility in the Universal Credit system and easier access to emergency funeral payments and cold weather payments.
CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said: "Our evidence suggests that there is a lot of room for improvement in the system.
"In our survey of 601 benefit claimants, over a third were regularly running out of money and having to turn to friends/family or to food banks for support.
"Disability benefit claimants told us about the struggles they had in claiming their entitlement and their frustration at the language used when governments talk about benefits.
"We have been encouraged by the Scottish Government's willingness to engage with stakeholders and with the people that will be most affected by the choices that they make.
"We would like this to continue as high level visions turn into policy and then into practice. But this will require clear thinking from policy-makers now.''
Welcoming the report, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: "Many people across Scotland including carers, young people, families and those who can't work because of disabilities or mental health have all faced cuts and discrimination as a result of the UK Government's welfare changes and austerity agenda. Changes made out of choice not necessity.
"That is why, with the limited powers over social security to be devolved, the Scottish Government will take an approach which will put people at its heart and not punish the vulnerable.
"We will also ensure investment is well managed and directed at the people who need it, in the way that will support them best.''