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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Third sector ramps up call for welfare devolution

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Leading charities have implored the UK's three main political parties live up to their vow and devolve welfare to Scotland

Leading charities have made an eleventh hour plea to all three UK political parties to deliver on their “vow” and devolve welfare powers to create a fairer, more equal Scotland.

In a strongly worded letter addressed to prime minister David Cameron, deputy prime minster Nick Clegg and labour leader Ed Milliband, the groups urged the coalition government to live up to the promise it made pre-referendum and commit to the “wholesale devolution of welfare.”

To do anything less will impede efforts “to support Scotland’s most vulnerable and tackle poverty and inequality,” the organisations state.

The letter, signed the Shulah Allen, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations' convener, makes the plea ahead of the commission’s announcement on its recommendations this Thursday.

The Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC) are among an estimated 60 charities backing the move.

The letter states: “With stronger, more coherent powers over welfare, Scotland would have the opportunity to take a different approach and to create a welfare system with an ethos that puts fairness and supporting people at its heart.

The third sector is committed to addressing the scars of poverty and inequality in Scotland - John Downie

“A system which acknowledges that anyone can find themselves in need; and which enables people to help themselves, and one another, out of poverty or unemployment.”

Welfare rights campaigners, anti-poverty groups and housing bodies have already stated in their submissions to the Smith Commission the only way to address poverty, tackle inequality and protect the most vulnerable in Scottish society is for powers over welfare to be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO said: “If the three UK parties want to live up to their promises to people in Scotland then they must agree to the wholesale devolution of powers over welfare to the Scottish Parliament.

“The third sector is committed to addressing the scars of poverty and inequality in Scotland and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities, the first step to achieving that must be handing full power over welfare to the Scottish Parliament.”

The call is bolstered by a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report showing child poverty and social exclusion is increasing across the UK.

The report shows 13% of pensioners are living in low-income households, compared with 21% of working-age adults and 27% of children.

In 2012/13 6.6 million people in working families were living in poverty, almost identical to the figure living in workless or retired families.

And 34% of 16 to 19 year-olds and 29% of 20 to 24 year-olds were from low-income households, the report reveals.

And the link between unemployment and poverty has also been eroded, the report found.

“If we had further devolution it would allow Holyrood to take a less punitive approach to welfare, provide greater access to affordable housing and reduce childcare costs,” said Jim McCormick, Scotland Advisor at the Joseph Rowntree Trust.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, chaired by Alan Milburn, told a conference in Edinburgh last month the UK is at risk of creating a “permanently divided society” unless radical new approaches are taken.

 

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