Campaigners urge political parties to make welfare a priority

SC0WR-Scottish Campaign on Welfare ReformThe Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) has written to political candidates across Scotland to ask them to commit to using new powers to create a fairer social security system.

Set up in 2006 to highlight the concerns of a diverse coalition of organisations in Scotland about the UK government’s welfare reform proposals, SCoWR today has a membership over 60 organisations including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Shelter Scotland and Glasgow Homelessness Network.

It has launched a new Holyrood 2016 Manifesto which sets out SCoWR members’ views of how new social security powers could be used to make progress towards a social security system in line with the principles of adequacy, dignity, simplification and investment.

In addition to abolishing the ‘bedroom tax’ for Universal Credit payments, SCoWR said the next Scottish Government must ensure that private tenants on the lowest incomes are not also left with a shortfall in rent

The manifesto also calls for Universal Credit claimants to be able to choose the frequency of payments and to whom housing costs are paid, citing research which suggests that the majority will prefer payments to be made to their landlord directly.

Other key asks in the document include a call for child benefit to be topped up, to overhaul the assessment process for people claiming disability benefits and to use new tax and spending powers to tackle inequality.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “SCoWR is made up of over 60 organisations in Scotland, who are committed to tackling poverty and inequality. This manifesto reflects our ambitions for the next five years and beyond.

“With new powers coming to Scotland now is the time to think about the type of Scotland we want to live in and how we achieve this.

“We have a real opportunity to do things differently, and improve the lives of many people affected by poverty, and we hope that politicians will have the courage to act on our recommendations.”

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “This vision for devolved social security reflects the views of an extraordinarily wide and diverse range of organisations working with tens and thousands of people for whom welfare benefits are critical.

“The challenge is now for all those seeking election to the Scottish Parliament to commit to using newly devolved powers to help realise our shared vision of a social security system that provides decent levels of support that genuinely protects all Scotland’s people from poverty.”

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland, added: “We know that child poverty imposes long term social costs, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimating that the annual cost of child poverty is around £25 billion. We believe that long term savings should be prioritised over short term costs and that Scotland’s new devolved social security powers should be used to invest in preventing and tackling poverty. This should be seen as not only desirable but also cost effective.”

To download the manifesto click here.

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