Linda Fabiani MSP for East Kilbride has this week raised concerns in the Scottish Parliament over the changes to Disability Living Allowance payments as reports show the number of people being pushed into poverty as a result of the UK Government’s welfare reforms is rising. Capability Scotland reports that many disabled Scots are having to go without basic essentials such as food, heating and clothes to make up for the loss in their income, whilst Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty revealed that over half a million people in the UK are being forced into using food banks.
“This week’s reports really show the impact these welfare reforms are having on the unemployed, sick and disabled members of our society. The choice between paying your rent or feeding your children is not a choice anyone should have to make, yet that is what the UK Government is forcing many people to do.
“Further welfare reforms are to take place. This week Personal Independence Payments were introduced for the disabled, and we already know the difficulties being encountered by those who have been attending Work Capability Assessments. The assessment system is not fit for purpose, and shouldn’t be further extended.
“The most recent UK Government Expenditure and Revenue (Scotland) figures show that Scotland spent 14.4% of public spending on social security compared to 15.9% for the UK, proving that the welfare state would be more affordable in an independent Scotland.
“Scotland does not need to endure these atrocious welfare policies from a government we didn’t vote for that sits in London. Fortunately, the opportunity exists for us to create something fairer and more in keeping with our values by voting YES in the Referendum next year.”
Meeting of the Parliament 11 June 2013
Disability Living Allowance
Linda Fabiani (East Kilbride) (SNP):
2. To ask the Scottish Government what impact the new system for disability living allowance will have on poverty in Scotland. S4T-00394
The Minister for Housing and Welfare (Margaret Burgess): Analysis by Inclusion Scotland estimates that the changes from disability living allowance to personal independence payment, together with the real-terms cut in the budget, will significantly reduce the number of people in receipt of disability benefits in Scotland. Those changes, along with other coalition welfare cuts, will have a significant detrimental impact on poverty in Scotland and undermine our efforts to tackle its causes. The solution for that is for the Scottish Parliament to have control over its own welfare matters, so that we can devise policies for the benefit of the Scottish people.
Linda Fabiani: Is the minister aware that despite “Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland” showing that spending on social protection as a share of gross domestic product is estimated to have been lower in Scotland than in the rest of the United Kingdom in each of the past five years, practitioners such as Capability Scotland warn that the changeover to PIP could have a catastrophic effect on the Scottish economy while hitting the most vulnerable in our society?
Margaret Burgess: The Scottish Government analysis that was published earlier this year estimated that the UK Government’s welfare reforms, including the change from DLA to PIP, could reduce welfare expenditure in Scotland by up to £4.5 billion in the five years to 2014-15. Today we published the expert working group on welfare’s report and the Scottish Government’s response to it. In our response, we mentioned “Scotland’s Balance Sheet”, a report that we published in April, which highlighted that expenditure on social protection as a share of GDP is estimated to have been lower in Scotland than in the UK in each of the past five years.
The Scottish Government is aware of that and we are aware that we have powers only to mitigate, not to change. Mitigating the full impact of the cuts will not be possible until the Scottish Parliament has full control and can put in place policies that benefit the people of Scotland.
Linda Fabiani: Is the minister also aware of the worrying evidence that the Welfare Reform Committee has heard during open sessions with those who are already directly affected by the welfare reform cuts: that work capability assessments are not fit for purpose, as shown by the number of successful appeals; and that those assessments are causing great stress to those who are already dealing with the effects of ill health? Does she share my concern that such bad practice has been further extended to those on disability allowance?
Margaret Burgess: I certainly share the member’s concern and am very much aware of the cases and the stories that the Welfare Reform Committee has heard, which are a concern to all of us.
We know that the work capability assessments are causing a great deal of distress to many people. Lessons have to be learned from a process that is currently being carried out by Atos Healthcare. That process is flawed, and it has been flawed for a considerable time.
The UK Government must ensure that it takes the necessary steps to make the PIP assessment process fair and effective for all, and the Scottish Government will continue to monitor the implementation of PIP in Scotland, because we are extremely concerned about the anxiety that people currently face. It is not only the Welfare Reform Committee that has heard about that; I think that every MSP has heard about it in their surgery.