MSPs to withhold consent from UK Welfare Reform Bill

Disability and other groups are concerned over the impact of UK welfare reforms

MSPs are set to formally protest against changes to the UK benefits system, which some claim will see cuts in payments to the most vulnerable.

SNP and Labour members of the Scottish Parliament are expected to take the unprecedented step of voting against a Westminster “consent” motion.

Holyrood cannot stop Westminster changing the welfare benefits system.

But the UK government wanted Holyrood to allow it to change the law so its reforms would fit the Scottish system.

The UK government said the Welfare Reform Bill would save billions of pounds by replacing Disability Living Allowance with a personal independence payment and replacing a range of other benefits with a single universal credit.

But these changes will have a knock-on effect for devolved services such as social care and devolved entitlements such as free school meals.

MSPs are expected to turn down Westminster’s consent request in favour of making the necessary legal changes themselves.

It will be the first time Holyrood has refused Westminster legislative consent.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the changes to welfare proposed by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition at Westminster would result in damaging cuts to benefits for some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

The UK government denied it was targeting the disabled and vulnerable.

It said the changes under the bill, due to come into effect in 2013, would save £7bn in welfare spending and encourage people currently on benefits to go out and find a job.

It has proposed moving to a single universal credit from 2013, to be paid to people both in and out of work.

The bill replaces child tax credit, working tax credit, housing benefit and income support, among others – but critics argue many in need of vital support will be worse off.

On Thursday, SNP and Labour MSPs will vote down part of the motion on the introduction of universal credit and personal independence payments.

The Scottish government will then need to bring forward its own legislation to ensure policies tied to the UK benefits system continue to operate in Scotland.

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It is disappointing the Westminster government has not chosen to make changes to reflect the very real and deep concern expressed about the consequences of their proposals”

Martin SimeScottish Council of Voluntary Organisations

Ms Sturgeon said: “We recognise the welfare system is broken and needs to be fixed, but not at the expense of our most vulnerable people.

“Put simply, the Scottish government supports a welfare system that is simpler, makes work pay and lifts people out of poverty however this approach is being fundamentally undermined by the UK government’s deep and damaging cuts to benefits and services that will impact on some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

“We have put on the record time and time again our long-standing concerns about the lack of detail around key elements of the bill, which will have serious implications for devolved policies and services.”

A spokeswoman for the UK Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are pleased that the Scottish government recognises the welfare system needs urgent reform so it’s fair, simpler and that work always pays.

“These reforms will end the cycle of generations of Scots living a life on benefits whilst ensuring that those people who need our help and support get it unconditionally.

“When one in five Scottish households is workless, something fundamental needs to change.”

MSPs have previously heard concerns that the Welfare Reform Bill would increase pressure on homelessness and social care services and force disabled people to move home.

Children’s groups also claimed it could plunge between 50,000 to 100,000 youngsters into poverty.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, said: “SCVO has always accepted that some welfare reform is necessary and welcome, but it is disappointing that the Westminster government has not chosen to make changes to reflect the very real and deep concern expressed about the consequences of their proposals for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Bill Scott, of disability organisation Inclusion Scotland, added: “Even at this eleventh hour, we hope that the UK government might re-discover its conscience and halt reforms which will impoverish and severely limit the independence of tens of thousands of disabled people.”

Despite the opposition, MSPs are expected to support other aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill, under the legislative consent motion, including changes to data sharing, industrial injuries benefits and a new commission on social mobility and child poverty.

The Scottish Parliament is also likely to agree to creating a new committee dealing with the issue of welfare.

BBC

Comments
  • Joe Kane on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 7:36 am

    A spokeswoman for the UK Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are pleased that the Scottish government recognises the welfare system needs urgent reform so it’s fair, simpler and that work always pays.
    “These reforms will end the cycle of generations of Scots living a life on benefits whilst ensuring that those people who need our help and support get it unconditionally.
    “When one in five Scottish households is workless, something fundamental needs to change.”

    – This is an absolute pack of right-wing lies and propaganda from start to finish. There is no such thing as inter-generational dependency on welfare benefits, unless the DWP is referring to the British royal family of course.
    That a paid civil servant can lie so openly and so brazenly to the taxpaying public, who pays their wages, just shows how utterly corrupt and rotten the DWP is as a department of state.

    Notice the DWP civil servant refers to households as “workless” rather than workers who are unemployed. It’s as if the unemployed are responsible for their unemployment, rather than government neoliberal policies which make them that way. As if “worklessness” is some kind of social moral malady rather than the result of economics and market forces.

    If something fundamental has to change, as far as unemployment is concerned, then the government should change its neoliberal economic policies which are the cause of so much mass unemployment.

  • Wendy MacKenzie on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

    BLOODY GOOD SHOW! Up the Nats! Makes me wish I still lived in Scotland …

  • Douglas Mitchell on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Nicola Sturgeon, you are a hero!!!

  • Maxine Middleton on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I think I should move to Scotland

  • Maxine Middleton on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

    They seem to at least to CARE about the vulnerable of society

  • Bridget Denise Price on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I am in a bit of a weird position with this whole palava! 1 I believe work is good for one- so much so that in spite of having a PhD, since I am too ill to do proper work I am working selling scotch eggs. I have had ME and depression for at least 30 years but last year was the first time I applied for any kind of sickness benefit. 2 Having taught and had a father who taught I also believe (from observation) that there are families who are dependant on the state for generation after generation. The thing is…. I think this government and the last are not bright enough to realize the probable cause, or that the best way to stop benefit dependency is not to force people into non existent jobs! They are putting the cart before the horse as it were. They need a paradigm shift. Stop thinking the disabled or long term unemployed are lazy. Realize that the problem stems from employers. If there are two people of equal ability to do a job and for one a lift has to be put into the building it is obvious the other will get the job. If someone can work brilliantly some days but is randomly and frequently ill a person of lower caliber who is reliable will get the job. Similarly if there are two people of equal ability with regard to a particular post but one of them is confident and eloquent and from a ‘nice’ neibourhood whilst the other is from a big ‘troublesome’ estate we all know who will get the job. Tackling prejudice and seriously working toward providing equal opportunities should have been the first step.

  • Bridget Denise Price on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 9:54 am

    (of course really I know that solving the problem is not truthfully part of government agenda. The actual phenomenon is of finding the most vulnerable scapegoats in an attempt to deflect public gaze from the total bollocking mess the whole capitalist system actually is)

  • Martin Butler on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 10:17 am

    “These reforms will end the cycle of generations of Scots living a life on benefits”….how bloody patronising.!….so the rest of the former UK is to view “feckless Jock” through DWP glasses eh….these people never ever learn do they, I have great respect for Alex Salmond and the SNP, and now they are proving the worth of being a Scottish nationalist, for the same reasons as they I am an English nationalist, if there were an English Govt it would be composed of people of similar mind and these reforms would be over and the authors on trial

  • Mags Kelly on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 11:12 am

    DLA was never a work related benefit… It was given in recognition of need….. that disabled people faced higher costs simply to live and travel (hospital visits, wheelchairs etc)….. Fraud level 0.05%. The Tory’s have allied it to their draconian welfare reform……. Their aim TO SAVE MONEY, regardless of the disastrous effects it will have. This will actually make it impossible for disabled people I know to continue working….. the reverse of what the Tory’s say they want. This is idealogical nothing else.

  • Cait Ni Cadlaig on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Maybe hopeful Not really sure but at least they are doing something

  • Cait Ni Cadlaig on Facebook December 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Mags you are completely correct It is ideological and money greedy !!

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