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Parties challenged on welfare reform

It is time for a system which lifts people out of poverty and treats them with dignity.

The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform, a coalition of over 40 key Scottish charities is calling on leaders of all the main political parties to support their Manifesto for Change.

Meeting this morning (Tuesday) in Edinburgh before an audience of voluntary sector officials, politicians and members of the public, the SCoWR coalition unveiled its election ‘manifesto,’ which outlines 5 key demands. These are:

1. Increase benefit rates to a level where no one is left in poverty and all have sufficient to lead a dignified life;

2. Make respect for human rights and dignity the cornerstone of a new approach to welfare;

3. Radically simplify the welfare system;

4. Invest in the support needed to enable everyone to participate fully in society;


5. Make welfare benefits in Scotland, suitable for Scotland.

At the launch, the leaders of the campaign made clear that they were not opposed to reform of the welfare system in principle, but that the present set of reforms – such as the introduction of the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the proposed abolition of the Attendance Allowance, were damaging the very people who the welfare system is meant to protect.

Ms Kaliani Lyle, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said,

“We are now on the very eve of the General Election. We don't know who will be in power in a few weeks time, but what is clear is that all parties are looking for cuts in spending, and that welfare services are very much in the firing line. SCoWR is here to protect those services, and this manifesto is all about challenging politicians of all parties to show us they too are committed to maintaining a fair welfare system for those sick, disabled and vulnerable people who depend on it.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance in Scotland, said,

"Any party that wants to improve services will find that we will work constructively with them – and that includes reform where reform is sensible and where it benefits the people in need. But we will vigorously oppose any attempts to cut services, limit opportunities or heap blame on the most vulnerable in our society. And that is what is happening too often under the current raft of reforms.”

John Dickie, Scottish spokesman for the Child Poverty Action Group, said,

“There is no question that welfare reform is needed. The current system fails to tackle the real problems people face trying to get into work and too often makes people jump through impossible hoops to claim meagre benefits. Our Manifesto challenges all those standing at the general election to only support proposals that treat people with dignity and protect them from poverty.”

The meeting also heard brief speeches from those who have had personal experiences of the failings of the current welfare system.