SCOTTISH secretary Jim Murphy’s plan to reward people who ‘snitch’ on supposed benefits cheats has been slammed by a coalition of anti-poverty groups.
The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) – which counts Citizens Advice Scotland, Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group and the Poverty Alliance as members – has hit out at the idea, which was put to Labour’s manifesto co-ordinator Ed Miliband by the Scottish secretary.
Murphy is reported to have advised Miliband to include a proposal that people who inform on benefits cheats should be given a share of the resulting savings to the state.
But according to SCoWR, benefits fraud is not as serious a problem as the government claims. Instead, said SCoWR, the real issue is lack of jobs.
SCoWR highlights the Department of Work and Pensions’ own figures that ‘by March 2008 we had reduced fraud across all benefits to just over half a penny for every £1 of benefit that we pay.’ (see footnote). Meanwhile, recent figures show that 7.4% of Scotland’s working age population are out of work.
Speaking on behalf of SCoWR, Jim Boyle (Oxfam Scotland’s UK Poverty Programme Co-ordinator) said:
“People are willing to work, but a society where they are presented as benefit fraudsters will only create division, feed stereotypes that give employers reason to put the unemployed to the bottom of the pile and further entrench social exclusion.
“SCoWR calls on the government and all political parties in the lead up to a national election to speak with unemployed people, to hear their stories about the efforts they go to in search of work and to put in place the support and real training linked to opportunities in a sustainable economy.”
Peter Kelly (Director of the Poverty Alliance Scotland) added:
“Recent estimates put the total amount paid out by UK taxpayers to prop up the financial system at an astonishing £1,227 billion - a figure which makes other losses pale into insignificance. Yet unemployed job seekers are expected to live on a mere £64.30 Jobseekers Allowance per week.
"Instead of throwing billions at the banks and demonising claimants, it’s about time politicians focused on the real issues and started investing in good quality jobs and a welfare system which lifts people out of poverty and enables everyone to live in dignity.”
Notes for editors
- SCoWR is a coalition of agencies, charities and NGOs based in Scotland who are committed to monitoring and campaigning on the issues raised by the UK Government's welfare reform agenda. ScoWER's membership includes: Action for Children Scotland, Barnardo's, Capability Scotland, Carr-Gomm Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Children 1st, Church Action on Poverty, Church of Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Dundee Anti Poverty Forum, ECAS - Edinburgh, Energy Action Scotland, Faith In Community (Scotland), Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Glasgow University Students' Representative Council, Inclusion Scotland, Leonard Cheshire Scotland, Margaret Blackwood Housing Association, Media Co-op, One Parent Families Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, PCS Union, Rosemount Lifelong Learning, Scottish Alliance of Children's Rights, Scottish Churches Housing Action, Scottish Churches Social Inclusion Network, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Scottish Drugs Forum, Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty, Scottish Trade Union Congress, Scottish Women's Convention, The Action Group, The Iona Community, The Poverty Alliance, and the Salvation Army.
- Footnote Source: Dept of Work and Pensions report ‘raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future.’ Column 6.24.
For more information, interviews etc. please contact:
Jim Boyle on 07796 190505
Peter Kelly on 0141 353 0440 or 07766 606454