Charities, unions and faith groups launch principles for fundamental rethink of social security
A coalition of over forty of Scotland’s leading charities, unions and faith groups says compassion and dignity need to be placed back at the heart of the country’s welfare system.
The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) says UK benefit cuts and welfare reform changes are leaving too many Scots without adequate means to live their lives in dignity.
Today the Campaign is launching a new manifesto calling for increased benefit rates so that no one is left in poverty, as well as a focus on respecting the human rights and dignity of claimants.
Campaign spokesperson John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said: “Over the last three years we have seen the bedroom tax, real terms cuts to benefits and tax credits and hopelessly inappropriate sickness and disability assessments. These changes undermine the support that ordinary families rely on, whether they are in or out of work.
'Our manifesto should be a wake-up call for politicians of all parties both at Holyrood and Westminster. Organisations from across Scotland are now united in calling for a fundamentally different approach to welfare. Our wellbeing as a nation is based on providing for people when they are in need. We must invest in our social security system, not undermine it.'
The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform includes, amongst others, Oxfam, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the STUC, the Child Poverty Action Group, One Parent Families Scotland and the Stroke Association.
Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said:
'The fact that in a rich country like ours there are people who cannot afford to feed and clothe themselves properly or pay their bills is simply not acceptable, nor is it necessary, even during an economic crisis. In fact, when more and more people find themselves out of work or struggling on below poverty wages, adequate social security benefits are more important than ever.'
The SCoWR Campaign manifesto says that current UK welfare reform "is creating a system which is leaving more people without access to any support at all", "lacks compassion" and fails to treat people with "dignity and respect”.
The Campaign says welfare cuts are also adding to massive unfairness and inequality in society. It says benefits should be raised to a level where no one is left in poverty and everyone has enough income to lead a dignified life.
It says the welfare system should focus more on benefits that are not means tested and should roll back 'punitive conditionality' and sanctions which the Campaign describes as "ineffective, complex, costly and stigmatising”.
The vision for a different welfare system comes as recent figures show a massive five-fold increase in the numbers of Scottish households being forced to turn to food banks.
The Manifesto is being launched in Edinburgh today (Thursday 14 November).
The launch has attracted cross-party interest from politicians, including Liberal Democrat peer Lord Kirkwood, Labour’s Sheila Gilmour, a member of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, and SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn, vice convener of the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee.
They will hear from individuals with direct experience of current social security policy, such as Stewart Lindsay who will talk about his experience of having dealt with the system after his daughter suffered a massive stroke.
Mr Lindsay said:
'The Benefits System needs to be overhauled. It does not, but must, recognise that although there are individuals who are claiming benefit illegally and immorally, the vast numbers of people claiming benefits are not the “scroungers” as many are keen to suggest.
'Reform should address the weaknesses in the system that allows people to manipulate the system before targeting the genuine and vulnerable claimants.
'My daughter has struggled and fought to get her life to some kind of normality....and asks for nothing more than an income that meets her basic human needs and that of her child, who is still at school, without continual form filling when her life has changed forever.'
Notes to Editors
- For further comment contact: John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, on 0141 552 3656 / 07795 340 618
- Interviews and filming opportunities, including with people with direct experience of welfare reform, will be available at the launch event from 12.30pm to 2pm at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh. A sandwich lunch will be served from 12.30, with speakers from 12.40. To arrange interviews on the day or for further information about the event, contact Angela MacLeod, Communications Manager Stroke Scotland, 0131 555 7244 / 07904 289900.
- In October 2013, the Trussell Trust – the main provider of foodbanks in Scotland - said 23,073 people were referred to them between April and September, a massive increase from the 4,021 people who were referred in the same months of 2012.
- SCoWR members include: Bipolar Scotland, Blackwood Housing Association, Capability Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Children 1st,Children in Scotland, Church Action on Poverty, Energy Action Scotland, Engender, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Glasgow Homelessness Network, Hillcrest Housing Association, HIV Scotland, Homeless Action Scotland, Inclusion Scotland, National Autistic Society Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Oxfam, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Public and Commercial Services Union Scotland, Quarriers, Save the Children, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Scottish Drugs Forum, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Scottish Homelessness and Employability Network, Scottish Poverty Information Unit, Scottish Trade Union Congress, Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Convention, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Sense Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Terence Higgins Trust Scotland, The Action Group, The Stroke Association, The Iona Community, The Poverty Alliance, Turning Point Scotland.
- The SCoWR manifesto which can be viewed and downloaded at www.cpag.org.uk/scotland/scowr sets out five key principles
- Increase benefit rates to a level where no one is left in poverty and all have sufficient income to lead a dignified life
- Make respect for human rights and dignity the cornerstone of a new approach to welfare
- Radically simplify the welfare system
- Invest in the support needed to enable everyone to participate fully in society
- Make welfare benefits work for Scotland