"Block cut to benefits and tax credits" coalition of trade unions, charities and faith groups tell Scotland's MPs in joint letter

21 January 2013

Today (21st January 2013) sees final stages before Lords of controversial Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill

A coalition of over sixty leading charities, unions and faith groups are urging Scotland's MPs to unite today to help block the real terms cut to benefits and tax credits contained in the UK Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill.

The Bill, which places a one per cent cap on key benefit and tax credit increases and breaks the link with the rising costs households face, has its final stages in the House of Commons today before going to the House of Lords.

Labour and SNP MPs already opposed the Bill at second reading, whilst Charles Kennedy MP abstained and has joined other back bench Liberal Democrats including Alan Reid MP to support amendments that seek to mitigate its impact.

In a letter sent to all Scotland’s MPs the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR), whose members include the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, anti-poverty campaigners and the Church of Scotland, says that the Bill “completely contradicts” the first of the SCoWR Manifesto principles that “benefits should be set at a level where no-one is left in poverty and all have sufficient to lead a dignified life.”

They point to the UK Government’s own confirmation that 200 000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of this Bill alone, and highlight that it guarantees a fall in living standards for anyone who relies on the state for all or part of their income, including low paid workers, lone parents, carers and people who are disabled or face long term illness.

John Dickie, a leading member of the Campaign and head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said;

“All Scotland’s MPs must surely unite in rejecting this Bill and the utterly false distinction between hard-working ‘strivers’ and benefit claiming ‘skivers’ that Ministers are using to justify it. Sixty per cent of the uprating cut will fall on people already in work and such distinctions, and the cut that they are being used to justify, is an attack on their dignity and the dignity of all those not in work due to unemployment, ill health, disability or caring responsibilities.

The bottom line is that this if passed this Bill will increase the hardship individuals and families are facing whether in or out of work, and with recent tax and benefit changes boosting the incomes of three out of five of the richest half of the population it clearly isn’t necessary to hit low income households yet again to support deficit reduction”

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, another leading member of SCoWR added;

“The STUC is deeply concerned for the many employees, particularly part-time women workers, who will suffer as a result of the proposed benefits cap. But we are also angry that some within government have sought to justify the cap on the back of the real terms pay cuts suffered by our members in recent years. We have no truck with this ‘beggar thy neighbour’ approach and will stand alongside all those, in or out of work, who stand to lose if this bill is passed.”

Read the letter to all Scottish MPs here.

For more details, please see the press release.