New coalition will battle for humane welfare system
Third Force News, by Graham Martin
Leading lights in third sector and civic Scotland will focus on welfare reform.
A coalition of leading civil society groups has been formed to press for a humane welfare system.
The Scottish Leaders Welfare Group (SLWG) met today (Monday) in Glasgow and said it would start to collate evidence which would be used to put pressure on both Westminster and Holyrood.
Its work kicked off straight away when it met in Drumchapel Citizen’s Advice Bureau and its members then went off the visit the local foodbank.
The group is made up of leaders from Scotland’s churches, trade unions, local authorities and voluntary sector.
We want to look at the effect changes are having on people. How can we help the people who need the help?
It will listen to service users and collate the experiences of member organisations – many of which work on the frontline – to make the case for humane welfare reform to the Department of Work and Pensions and also to Holyrood, following limited devolution in that area as part of the Smith proposals on further powers for Scotland.
Its chairman, former Labour MP Lord McFall, said: “The overall aim of this group is to work collaboratively to highlight and respond to the impact of recent changes to the welfare and benefits system on the people, services, and communities of Scotland, especially vulnerable people or groups.
“The SLWG will use its collective voice to provide witness to the impact of welfare changes and will challenge government policy and practice where we believe these have a negative impact and result in deprivation.
“The group will highlight the responsibility of all levels of government and other interested stakeholders to pursue policies and practices which enable people to live a dignified life.”
Leading lights in the SLWG include Father Thomas Boyle, assistant general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Ronnie Convery, director of communications at the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Sally Foster Fulton, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, Barbara Lindsay, deputy chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Margaret Lynch, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, Councillor David O’Neill, president of COSLA, Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary and Andrew Tomlinson, associate secretary of the Church of Scotland Church and Society Council.
Father Boyle told TFN: “We’ve all become aware of the chaos that benefit changes have brought in last 12 to 18 months.
“People have been moved from a system where the had a face to face interview with an a person dealing with their claim to this impersonal system where people are not being treated as individuals.
“Our plan as a group is to gather more evidence from the various constituent bodies. We all have the informal evidence, but we want to gather that and present it to the decision makers, to the DWP, and whatever comes to Holyrood, we will go there as well.
“We are a non party political organisation and that’s why we didn’t want to get involved before the referendum. We want to look at the effect these changes are having on people. How can we help the people who need the help?”