Holyrood committee calls for urgent welfare reform

A report published this week by the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee has called for the urgent reversal of UK Government welfare cuts that have caused “significant damage” to the income of working Scots.

Introduced by the Tories in 2016, the working-age benefit freeze gives a real-terms cut to households claiming benefits such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credits, and Tax Credits – forcing families to bear the brunt of what will be an estimated £3.7 billion in cuts by 2020.

The report, ‘Social Security and In-Work Poverty’, found that, “the benefits freeze has a disproportionate impact on the poorest and those in most need.”

While the SNP has pledged almost £100 million for the coming year to continue mitigation of the Bedroom Tax and the UK Government’s reserved welfare cuts, the committee has said it should not be the Scottish Government’s sole responsibility to ensure the income of claimants north of the border does not drop in real terms.

The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank charity, recently came forward with figures that show a 52% increase in demand at local foodbanks in the 12 months after the rollout reaches an area.

Commenting SNP MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, Stuart McMillan said:

“Here in Inverclyde and across Scotland, families are falling behind on rent payments, struggling to heat their homes and finding it difficult to put food on the table, thanks to the Tories’ damaging welfare policies.

“The report found Universal Credit to be a significant factor in the increasing foodbank usage in Scotland, and has quite rightly urged the UK Government to end the five-week waiting period for first-time claimants to receive a payment. A maximum of two weeks would be more appropriate.”

“More and more households simply can’t get by – forcing many of those on UC to rely on emergency welfare support and foodbanks to feed themselves.

“With food costs on the rise too, it’s no surprise that Scotland’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau have seen a 202% increase in demand for advice relating to foodbanks in the last five years.

“It’s appalling then that neither the Work and Pensions Secretary nor the UK Employment Minister accepted the committee’s invitation to give evidence during this inquiry.

“The UK government cannot continue to stick their heads in the sand – it’s time to listen to the pleas from claimants, campaigners and charity groups for fundamental reform of Universal Credit and an end the benefits freeze.”

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