Campaigners supporting both sides of the Scottish referendum debate have said they back creating a welfare system that would increase benefits
Speaking at an event organised by the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCOWR) representatives of both sides of the independence debate agreed with the principles of the SCOWR’s manifesto for change, which includes increasing benefit levels.
Charities that make up the coalition welcomed the joint commitment to a new social security system and warned the issue should not be used as a “political football” after the referendum.
We only have to look at the numbers of people visiting foodbanks to see how punitive these measures can be. It is clear that we need a change in the direction and purpose of welfare policy no matter where power lies - Peter Kelly
Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland and Danny McCafferty of Clydebank Independent Resource Centre welcomed the SCOWR manifesto for change but disagreed with Kainde Manji of Glasgow University’s department of urban studies and Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre on which constitutional solution would provide the best chance of achieving its aims.
Jenkins argued that a yes vote will be more likely to deliver a fairer welfare system, arguing the current approach at Westminster is to demonise the poor. While Manji said breaking the union went against the original vision of a welfare state where resources would be pooled for the benefit of everyone.
Following the event, Satwat Rehman, chief executive of One Parent Families Scotland, said: “The thing I think is most important is to build on the support from the yes and no representatives for the SCOWR principles and the consensus across the speakers that the system we have now is broken and not fit for purpose to ensure whatever the outcome of the referendum there is a commitment from the two camps to work together and not make the issues of social security, poverty and social justice a political football.”
The five main calls within the SCOWR manifesto for change are increased benefit rates, putting human rights at the heart of the benefits system, simplifying the system, investing in support to help people contribute to society and making welfare benefits work for Scotland.
People dependent on the welfare system also spoke at the event and highlighted the problems they face within it.
They highlighted inadequate benefit levels, high childcare costs, unfair sanctions, confusion and anxiety over the complexity of the system and the stigma associated with depending on welfare.
Peter Kelly, chief executive of the Poverty Alliance, said: “There can be no doubt that the current social security model is not working. The bedroom tax, sanctions and other welfare reform measures are pushing more and more people into poverty.
“We only have to look at the numbers of people visiting foodbanks to see how punitive these measures can be. It is clear that we need a change in the direction and purpose of welfare policy no matter where power lies.
“As an anti-poverty campaigner, it was hugely encouraging to see both sides at the SCOWR debate united in calls for a new system of social security. It was heartening to see welfare reform and poverty issues discussed with such passion by both panellists and audience members.”
John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, added: “Wherever key powers end up lying, those powers need to be used to reverse the hugely damaging approach to benefits being pursued by the current UK government and to ensure all families have the incomes they need to protect their children from poverty.”