Coalition child benefit cuts branded 'callous'

CHANGES which will see Child Benefit scrapped or cut for tens of thousands of families have been branded "callous" by Glasgow MSPs.

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The moves, part of a wider package of welfare reforms by the UK Government will see any family with a top rate tax payer have the benefit axed.

It will also see a current freeze become a cap set at 1% on any increases, which taking inflation into account is considered to be a cut costing £1100 for a family with two children.

Deputy First Minister and Glasgow Southside MSP, Nicola Sturgeon, said the UK Department for Work and Pensions admitted the changes would push 200,000 children, including 15,000 in Scotland into income poverty.

In a debate in the Scottish Parliament, which centred as much on arguments for and against independence as on the benefits system, Ms Sturgeon said it was a decision not wanted in Scotland implemented by a Government Scotland did not vote for.

She said: "The totality of the changes will affect one million working age households in Scotland. When we think about the households with children where benefits make up more than half of the income this is a serious situation."

Ms Sturgeon criticised the means testing, where a single top rate tax payer will lose the benefit but a couple earning more in joint income will keep it.

She added: "The cack-handed implementation means some losing the benefit will be on a lower income than some who are retaining it."

The plans include a current two-year freeze followed by a cap of a 1% rise for another two years, to 2015.

Drew Smith, Glasgow Labour MSP, criticised the UK Government plans and said the SNP should act using the powers it has to tackle poverty and inequality.

He added: "Many of those affected will be in work and Child Benefit is the only benefit they receive."

The Conservatives said that any benefits had to be paid from the money available through the collection of taxes from working people.

Alex Johnstone, Tory MSP for North East Scotland, said he believed the SNP saw the need for welfare reform and that it was pleased the UK Government was implementing the changes, so they don't have to should Scotland become independent.

He asked: "Will the Scottish Government commit to re-instating Child Benefit?"

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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