“People are hurting and their voices need to be heard”
Hello there, may name is Brian Scott and I live in Glasgow. I’ve been a volunteer/anti-poverty activist with the Poverty Truth Community in Glasgow for almost 4 years.
I’m writing this blog about 2 weeks after the recent local elections in England and Wales and the elections to the Scottish Parliament for the next 5 years. The situation now is that the Scottish Government (SNP) will form a ‘Grace and Favour’ arrangement with the Scottish Greens to form a majority Government and pass legislation. I’m going to look into what both the SNP and the Scottish Greens put in their election manifesto to tackle all forms of poverty and ‘bridging the attainment gap’ within Scotland over the lifetime of the new Scottish Parliament,
I’ve listed below some points from the SNP manifesto going into the 2021 Scottish elections to give you a sense of what they are planning to do:
DIGNITY, FAIRNESS, RESPECT
- Incorporate UN Treaties into Scots Law.
- Raise SCP to £20 p/w.
- Universal free school meals (breakfast, lunch) to ALL primary school pupils.
- NO details of Covid top-up payments being applied to legacy benefits.
- No details on funding for more Social Housing
- NO details or commitment to raise or change Benefits which the Scottish Government has powers over.
A Caring Society
- Improve Mental Health Service – funding to be increased by 25% (at least)
- CAMHS “Aim to reshape how CAMHS in delivered”.
- Aim to bring forward Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill. Aim to create a ‘commissioner’ to oversee this.
- Minimum Income Guarantee (no rate mentioned).
- Provide a cash grant of £250 every quarter to low income families where a child receives free school meals.
- Invest £50M to lift children out of poverty.
- Invest £50M to end homelessness and rough sleeping.
- Scottish Government will make payments to bridge gap until SCP is fully rolled out. Scottish government will provide equivalent of SCP payments to all low income families in receipt of free school meals.
- Best Start Grant. Payment of up to £600 from 24 wks pregnant to child is 6 months old.
- Best Start Grant – Early Learning Payment. £250 payment when child is 2-3 years old.
- Best Start Grant – School Age Payment. £250 payment to low income families when child starts school.
- Carer’s Allowance Supplement. Payment made twice a year to increase value of Carer’s Allowance by 13%.
- Replace Carer’s Allowance with a ‘Carer’s Assistance’ payment and increase rate (no further details).
- Anyone caring for more than one person will have their payment increased by £10 p/w.
- Child Winter Heating Assistant. £200 payment to children on High Rate DLA or PIP.
- As you can see, it’s an ambitious programme which will keep the Scottish Government busy for the next 5 years.
Scottish Green Party manifesto
With the Scottish Green Party (potentially) having a say in the Governance of Scotland I thought I would list some highlights from the Scottish Green’s manifesto of 2021.
- Free bus travel for all under 21’s.
- Guarantee of ‘No Sanctions’ benefits.
- Ensure low income families receive all financial entitlement.
- Double Scottish Child Payment p/w.
- Increase all ‘Best Start Grants’ by £100.
- Ensure ALL devolved benefits rise in line with costs (inflation?).
- Scrap the Benefit Cap.
- End 2 child limit and Rape Clause in Tax Credits entitlement.
- Introduce ‘Universal Basic Income’.
- If powers refused by Westminster Government, start fund to ensure pilot schemes around the country.
- Create a ‘Benefits Take Up Fund’ to ensure recipients receive all ‘entitled’ benefits. Place advisors in Schools and GP Surgeries.
- Look into the feasibility of automating the take-up of Benefits so clients don’t have to claim further benefits – system will flag up when client is entitled to any more benefits.
As you can see, both parties have a lot of similarities in their outlook concerning social welfare and attainment gap policies.
What does this all mean?
Both the Scottish government and the Scottish Greens would like to institute a kind of ‘one stop shop’ benefits system. They envisage implementing a system that, when you apply and are awarded one benefit, depending on the information you supply (and what it has stored in its records) it will automatically flag up any other relevant benefits you are entitled to and automatically include any new benefits into your existing payments. They state this will cut down form filling, repetition and duplication of information thus reducing the stress experienced by claimants. I can foresee a number of practical and potential legal problems with this. For example, if you don’t have access to a computer how can you initially apply for benefits (this future system will be online).
Both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens have some innovative ideas for pulling people out of poverty and closing the attainment gap. To me, there are some major omissions from their Agendas which have to be tackled, eg, No mention of the removal of the Benefit Cap, no details about the Scottish Government linking benefits to the cost of living outwith the system Westminster proposes etc.
It will be an interesting 5 years. It is vitally important that we are there to remind the Government in Scotland that people are living in poverty, children are going hungry, parents are having to make the decision whether to heat the house or feed the family. In essence, people are hurting and their voices need to be heard.
Brian Scott is a member of the Welfare Change Lived Experience Group. If you want to change your practices to improve access to benefits for people experiencing multiple disadvantages, please get in touch and find out how the Welfare Change Lived Experience Group can help you!