THE Tory government has been urged to reform the benefits system following new research that shows people living in Scotland’s social housing are facing “unprecedented” levels of deprivation.

An appeal for government help to reduce energy costs has also been made to relieve the “devastation” caused by the cost of living crisis.

The level of need uncovered by the report for the Scottish ­Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) is a ­direct result of political ­choices, ­according to chief executive Sally Thomas.

Amid the dire economic outlook, the research has found that people living in Scotland’s social homes have resorted to skipping meals, ­disconnecting their energy supplies and even cutting back on visiting friends and families to make ends meet. The vast majority (86%) of ­tenants feel worse off than this time last year.

The biggest drivers of deprivation have been the “exorbitant” cost of food and energy, with more than 95% saying that they are struggling with the costs of putting food on the table and heating their home.

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As well as the severe financial ­implications the cost of living crisis has had for Scotland’s social tenants, the report has also brought to light the widespread impacts on physical and mental health.

Almost nine in 10 tenants surveyed found that the crisis has had an ­adverse impact on their health, with two thirds also saying their mental health had worsened. Perhaps most alarmingly, nearly one in two tenants admitted to skipping meals, with the majority also cutting back on fruit and vegetables.

Those with specialist needs have been hit especially hard. Tenants ­living with diabetes are unable to afford the food required to manage their condition, whilst others who require specialist medical equipment cannot afford to power their devices.

The SFHA has now called on the UK Government to urgently ­reform the social security system and ­support social tenants with a direct energy cost intervention.

The housing body has also said that the UK Government should ­introduce a social energy tariff and a discounted energy bills rate to ­support vulnerable customers and prevent self-disconnection.


“It is simply not right that in one of the worlds’ richest economies we have so many people facing the level of need uncovered here,” said Thomas.

“And we have to be clear – this is a direct result of political choices.

“Housing associations provide safe, warm, affordable homes for life but our members are still seeing tenants struggling. Over 70% of Scotland’s ­social tenants receive some form of social security so if people ­cannot feed their families or heat their homes, then it’s clear that the system is not fit for purpose.

“Reforming Universal Credit and introducing a social tariff for energy are measures that the UK Government could take now and as we head into another difficult winter, the need has never been more urgent.”

Over a quarter of Scotland’s population rent their homes from social landlords and despite housing association rents being around half of those in the private rented sector, most social tenants are on lower incomes and are therefore more susceptible to economic shocks.

David Linden (above), SNP MP for ­Glasgow East, welcomed the report’s publication and backed calls for reforms to social security.

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He said: “In Parliament I have ­consistently called for the UK ­Government to introduce essentials guarantee that would provide social security claimants with a minimum income, protecting people from not being able to afford essentials like food, household bills and travel costs.

“As well as continuing to call for the reintroduction of the £400 energy bill rebate, immediate action must be ­taken to tackle the soaring food ­prices, similar to policies we ­currently see being introduced in France.

“I cannot thank the SFHA enough for taking the time to produce the report, and giving a voice to social tenants across Scotland, who are ­suffering most at the hands of a Westminster-made cost of living crisis.

“The UK Government can and must go further to help mitigate the worst effects of the cost of living crisis and I hope that this report ­reinforces the need for them to act sooner, ­rather than later.”