‘Moral case’ for welfare reforms is a sham, says Minister

Posted on 05/03/2014 by


The UK Government’s “moral case” for welfare reform is harming the living standards of poor and vulnerable people in Scotland, Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said yesterday. Trussell Trust figures show that over 50,000 people in Scotland received assistance from their foodbanks in the last ten months.

Mrs Burgess highlighted her concerns to MSP’s during a welfare reform debate in the Scottish Parliament, where she said that the current reforms are creating deep concern and anxiety and is leaving already vulnerable people at risk of extreme poverty and exclusion.

The Scottish Government estimates that the reduction in welfare expenditure in Scotland could reach as much as £4.5 billion by 2015.

Margaret Burgess said: “The reforms are unfair and unjust and impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Yet, even with all of that, the UK Government talks about the ‘moral case’ for welfare reform. It is a sham.

“What is evident is that more and more people are struggling to cope and being flung into a downward spiral of misery. Where is the morality in that? It is shameful that in the 21st century, there are people in Scotland who are in desperate straits because of the UK’s relentless and unfair policies. Rather than help, the UK Government’s plans are punishing the most vulnerable in our society.

“In the meantime, the Scottish Government is taking direct action and delivering real support to help people deal with the cuts and changes to welfare provision. That includes investing at least £258 million over the period from 2013-14 to 2015-16 to mitigate the worst impacts of these reforms.

“But these are resources that have been taken away from other areas, money that could have been used for other priorities. For example we could have used this money to invest more in health and education for our people – and in growing Scotland’s economy. With independence, we can take decisions about welfare that will ensure fair and decent support for people in Scotland.”

Ewan Gurr, Scotland Development Officer for the Trussell Trust said: “While The Trussell Trust celebrates the ways in which communities pull together in lean times to respond to emerging need, we do not celebrate the fact the need exists in the first place.

“Foodbanks are a grass-roots response to a systemic problem and are often a lifesaver to many individuals and families who feel they have nowhere else to turn. We applaud the consistent efforts of the Scottish Government to mitigate the effects of food poverty and to raise the profile of this issue in an effort to identify creative solutions.”

However The Department for Work and Pensions said the government’s welfare reforms will make three million households across the UK better off, and refutes claims that welfare reforms have caused increased dependency on food banks. A spokesperson for DWP said: “The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to the increased use of food banks.”

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron told the Daily Telegraph that the government’s economic plan for Britain was ‘about doing what is right’. He wrote: ‘For me, the moral case for welfare reform is every bit as important as making the numbers add up.’