South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has used parliament to highlight more than £30 million spent by the SNP Scottish Government to mitigate the effect of the Tory UK Government’s welfare cuts across Dumfries and Galloway.
The MSP asked the Scottish Government what it is doing to mitigate the cumulative effect of the Tories’ welfare cuts in the region during Thursday’s general questions. She also raised the issue of the UK Government cuts to mobility cars and the particular hardship caused to disabled people in rural areas when they lose their vehicle.
In her response the SNP Minister for Social Security in Scotland Jeane Freeman MSP said that Dumfries and Galloway has received over £30.5 million on this mitigation funding.
Ms Freeman said:
“The UK Government will have cut £1 billion a year from welfare spend in Scotland by 2022, with a quarter of a billion coming through changes introduced last month alone.
“We have taken a number of actions to protect the poorest and most vulnerable, these include since 2013/14 spending over £350 million to enable us to fully mitigate the bedroom tax so that 70,000 households save around £650 per year, help 241,000 households in crisis through the Scottish Welfare Fund and with a further investment of over £1 billion in the council tax reduction scheme and as members will know we have not imposed a two-child cap on that scheme.
The minister agreed with Ms McAlpine that it was unacceptable that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) reassessments meant her disabled constituents were losing their Motability vehicles.
The MSP pointed to UK figures which show 900 people a week are losing their Motability vehicle due to PIP reassessment.
The Minister responded that:
“The Conservative government tell us that their welfare policies are designed to help people into employment. Even in their own terms then, if we believed them – the significant impact of the loss of mobility vehicles on individuals… is considerable. What we do know is that the Conservative government - whether it’s about austerity or welfare cuts on the back of the poor – have no care and no recognition of the damage caused by their policies.
“In Scotland we are doing things differently, we are working with Motability to ensure it continues to be available when we take on delivery of those benefits in our rights-based social security system – and it will be a system based on dignity and respect.”
Commenting after the parliamentary questions, Ms McAlpine said:
“I have supported numerous constituents who have notified of a PIP reassessment – in which their claim is upheld – but the process means their Motability vehicle is taken away from them, sometimes for up to months at a time.
“This is an absurd and cruel state of affairs - even more so for those in rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway, where their vehicle really is a vital lifeline for everyday life, work, appointments and other activities.
“The SNP Scottish Government is doing all it can to mop up the mess Tory welfare cuts are causing, by mitigating some of the cuts. But as the minister pointed out, the Scottish Government should not have to mitigate cuts and policies which the Scottish Parliament has not – would not – vote for. The money for mitigation has to come from other budgets in Scotland, such as health and education.
“The UK Tory government has proven time and time again it cannot be trusted to make these choices on Scotland’s behalf.
“We will use our new powers to meet the needs of the people who need a safety net.
“Ultimately, however, this is further proof that ALL welfare policy-making must be handed back to Scotland so we can create a system that’s truly fit for purpose.”