Welfare reforms ‘major concern’

GOVERNMENT agencies have been damned as being “unhelpful, aggressive and incompetent” in a report by Citizens Advice Bureau Scotland, which has also identified welfare reform as its greatest concern for 2012.

A survey by CAB Scotland of its staff revealed a number of angry comments about some of the agencies they regularly have to deal with on behalf of their clients – including government departments, JobCentres and fuel companies.

This year’s survey shows that 53 per cent of Scotland’s CAB staff think benefits issues are the single biggest problem area, and 73 per cent said this was one of their top two issues.

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The results put a question mark against the reforms being carried out by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, which will attempt to simplify the system and “make work pay”.

The other major concern was personal debt, which was cited by 21 per cent of CAB advisers as their main issue and by 46 per cent as one of their top two issues.

CAB Scotland’s head of policy, Susan McPhee, said: “This year’s survey shows that the reforms being made to the benefits system are really hitting the most vulnerable Scots, and our staff around the country now believe this is by far the greatest problem they see being brought to the CAB.

“Debt also remains high on the list, and there is a big rise in concern about the behaviour of utility companies, much of which was based on the issue of high fuel bills.”