Scottish parents 'penalised' by UK Welfare reforms

February 24, 2009

Anti-poverty campaigners are today (Tuesday) telling UK Ministers that their proposed Welfare Reform Bill will penalise parents in Scotland and risk plunging more Scottish children into poverty.

The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) is a coalition of voluntary groups concerned that the UK government's plans to reform the welfare system will make some of Scotland’s poorest households even more vulnerable. The reforms aim to get benefit claimants off benefit and into work, in part by compulsion and the threat of cutting benefit. However the policy is based on an assumption that adequate childcare is in place to enable parents to undertake work-related activity - an assumption SCoWR believes is mis-placed.

According to SCoWR today, the Government's failure to recognise the different childcare arrangements in Scotland, and the lack of a legal obligation on local authorities to make childcare available for working parents (as in England), could put Scottish families at particular risk.

The group is working with Labour backbencher John Robertson MP, who is lodging an amendment today (Tuesday) in the House of Commons which aims to delay the implementation of the legislation in Scotland until adequate affordable childcare is available to all Scottish parents.

In a statement today, SCoWR spokesman John Dickie said,

"This is not the welfare reform we so sorely need. We support the principle of helping people into work, but we believe that a punitive, sanctions-based approach is not the most constructive or effective means of achieving that.

" The lack of adequate childcare facilities represents a major impediment to work for many Scots - a fact that the Bill currently does not recognise.

"In these two amendments we are calling on the government - and specifically on Scottish UK Ministers and MPs - to understand that these proposals will penalise Scottish parents who are out of work.

"We call on all Scottish MPs - starting with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Scotland - to understand that unless they change course on this they will be foisting on their own constituents a bill that will hit parents badly. We're giving them a chance to put Scotland first.”

Notes for editors
  • The text of the two amendments being lodged today by John Robertson MP is given in the briefing sheet, which also includes detailed explanations of their aims and objectives.
  • SCoWR is a coalition of agencies, charities and NGOs based in Scotland who are committed to monitoring and campaigning on the issues raised by the UK Government's welfare reform agenda. SCoWR's membership includes: Action for Children Scotland, Barnardo's, Capability Scotland, Carr-Gomm Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Children 1st, Church Action on Poverty, Church of Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Dundee Anti Poverty Forum, ECAS - Edinburgh, Energy Action Scotland, Faith In Community (Scotland), Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Glasgow University Students' Representative Council, Inclusion Scotland, Leonard Cheshire Scotland, Margaret Blackwood Housing Association, Media Co-op, One Parent Families Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, PCS Union, Rosemount Lifelong Learning, Scottish Alliance of Children's Rights, Scottish Churches Housing Action, Scottish Churches Social Inclusion Network, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Scottish Drugs Forum, Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty, Scottish Trade Union Congress, Scottish Women's Convention, The Action Group, The Iona Community, The Poverty Alliance, and the Salvation Army.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact any of:

John Dickie - Child Poverty Action Group – 0141 552 3656

Matt Lancashire - Citizens Advice Scotland – 0131 550 1062

Peter Kelly - the Poverty Alliance – 0141 353 0440