By Andy Little.
Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum came together in Edinburgh on Thursday 13th November to support the launch of the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform. The group is a coalition of key third sector organisations from across Scotland.
The Campaign put forward five key reforms which amounts to a new approach to social security.they seek to increase benefit levels to ensure that no one is left in poverty. Make respect for human rights and dignity a cornerstone for a new approach to welfare. Radically simplify the welfare system. Invest in the support needed to ensure that everyone is able to participate fully in society and make welfare benefits work for Scotland.
Chairman, John Dickie said:
“The current approach to social security is not working. We have seen the rise of foodbanks, rising rent arrears and we need to rethink the overall approach to social security.”
Maggie Kelly the co-author of the manifesto said:
“Simple things can reduce poverty such as paying people benefit that raises them out of poverty”
Keynote speaker Lord Archie Kirkwood (Liberal Democrat) praised the role of the third sector as an important pressure group for change. Lord Kirkwood said:
“There is massive value in working together, policy makers need to hear from the voluntary sector”
He was also critical of the Department of Work and Pensions. Kirkwood said:
“The Department of Work and Pensions is in a state of turmoil, the information technology for universal credit will never work for low income families and the sanctions regime potentially labels everyone a scrounger. That cannot be allowed to continue”
Shiela Gilmour, Labour MP and member of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee sounded a note of caution when she referred to the cost of reform. Gilmour said:
“The cost has to be discussed it’s not just a safety net but we must have that debate not just a wish list.”
Jamie Hepburn the SNP MSP and deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee said:
“I welcome this manifesto for an important contribution to the debate and an important opportunity to imagine a different type of Scotland”
Nobody from the Conservative Party attended the event.
The Department of Work and Pensions was not able to respond to a request to comment.