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Welfare Reform - Third Sector Shifts into Gear

6 Oct 2009

The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) meets today for a conference aimed at challenging the political consensus on welfare reform in the run-up to the next General Election and beyond.

In a week that has seen the Conservative Party put welfare reform back in the headlines, SCoWR, which brings together over 40 leading Scottish voluntary sector groups, will challenge a welfare agenda of benefit cuts and increased conditions that they believe threatens to plunge tens of thousands of vulnerable Scottish households into deeper poverty.

Opening the conference, Matt Lancashire, from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), said,

"As a group, we all have an interest in combating poverty and protecting the most vulnerable people in Scotland - those who are too often the victims of our society. These are the very people who are in danger of being left behind by the current agenda of welfare reform. We are here to make sure that doesn't happen.”

"We are now in the home straight before the next General Election. We don't know who will be in power this time next year, 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. Our job today is to make sure we work together to shape the future of a fair welfare system.”

John Dickie, Head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said,

"There is no doubt that reform of the welfare system is needed. But that reform needs to be based on treating people with dignity and providing adequate levels of support to protect them from poverty through times of unemployment, ill health, or caring responsibilities. The current political debate fails to address these issues, but our Campaign conference will.”

The conference will bring together organizations working with those facing the worst consequences of the recession, as well as those with direct experience of the benefit system to draw up ideas on what is needed to create a system that genuinely protects people from poverty, and identify the best ways to take those ideas forward.

Mr Dickie continued;

"Any party that wants to improve the welfare system will find that we will work constructively with them on a reform agenda. But we will vigorously oppose any attempts to cut or make benefits even harder to claim, and limit opportunities for or heap blame on the most vulnerable in our society."

Today's conference is held at the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6NG. It will be attended by 65 people, representing all of the SCoWR organizations. Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend. The agenda is below.

 AGENDA FOR THE CONFERENCE

 

10am Registration, tea and coffee

10.30am Welfare Reform – ScoWR aims and action to date

John Dickie Head of CPAG in Scotland

10.40am Political Opportunities – John Mason MP

10.55am Grassroots opportunities –

Mary Collins Co-ordinator of the Independent Resource Centre, Clydebank

11.10am Alternative models of welfare

Professor Paul Spicker – Robert Gordon University

11.30am Tea Break

11.45am Workshops

Workshop 1 - What would a welfare system which treated people with dignity look like and how do we get there? – Jim Boyle - Oxfam

Workshop 2 - What would a welfare sytsem which truly supported people look like and how do we get there? – Robert McGeachy – Children 1st

Workshop 3 - What would a well resourced welfare system look like and how do we get there? Jim Lugton - SCVO

Workshop 4 - What would a welfare system which took into account the differences in Scotland look like and how do we get there?

Maggie Kelly – Poverty Alliance

13.00 Lunch

13.45 Group feedback and discussion of workshops – Matt Lancashire – CAS

14.15 Media Savvy

Tony Hutson CAS & Eileen Clarkson Oxfam

14.45 Next steps

Peter Kelly – Poverty Alliance

3.30pm Close

Embargo: 00.01 on Thursday 8th October, 2009

Contact: Matt Lancashire 0131 550 1062 or John Dickie 07795 340 618

(For further information, or to arrange advance interviews)

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