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New social security system must act to address poverty

Posted: 25/04/2018

New social security system must act to address poverty

Campaigners have today welcomed the passing of the Social Security Bill at the Scottish Parliament, and have called for the new social security system to be used to loosen the grip of poverty on people’s lives in Scotland.


The Bill establishes the framework of the new system and sets out seven principles on which it will be based.  With 1 million people now experiencing poverty in Scotland, the Poverty Alliance has particularly welcomed the acknowledgement in the Bill that the new system will contribute to reducing poverty. It is this principle, alongside the recognition that social security is a human right, which holds out the possibility of the new system playing a very different role in Scotland.


Throughout every stage of the Bill, the Poverty Alliance worked to ensure that the voices of people with experience of poverty were reflected, and Poverty Alliance activists were involved in discussions with the Scottish Government about the design of the new social security agency. After years of changes to the welfare system that have undermined human rights, stripped people of their dignity and restricted their choices and opportunities, campaigners believe it is essential that those with experience of poverty now play a part in making the principles of the new system real.


Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said:


“We are pleased at the passing of the Social Security Bill today. With almost daily reports of the impact of the cuts to social security at the UK level, such as the freeze on levels of many UK benefits or the roll out of Universal Credit, it is time to show that a different approach is possible.  Our hope is that we are able to look back on this day as an important one in the journey towards solving poverty in Scotland.


“With the extensive social security powers now available to the Scottish Government, and with the new system having poverty reduction as one of its founding principles, it is essential that we now turn principles into action and ensure that the system delivers some of the solutions that can address the factors holding people in poverty.


“This means ensuring adequate benefit levels so that people are not forced into making choices between heating their homes or paying their rent. It means exploring options like topping up child benefit by £5 per week in order to lift 30,000 children out of poverty. It means better supporting people to navigate the system, so that they can access their entitlements and not be forced into the hands of exploitative pay day lenders.


“It also means a system that respects people’s rights and secures their dignity. We have been encouraged that the Scottish Government has sought the views of people with experience of poverty as it has developed its plans for the new system, and this involvement must continue in the years ahead if we are to turn the vision of a rights-based system into reality.


“There are real limits to what can be done with the powers that Scotland has over social security, but there are also genuine possibilities to make a difference to the lives of thousands of people. It is up to us all now to take advantage of those possibilities.”



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