Welfare advisers at Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service are saving vulnerable people from destitution every day an MSP has said.
Joan McAlpine praised the local team during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.
The SNP MSP visited the service as part of an evidence gathering session for the Committee, which is scrutinising the effect of Westminster welfare cuts on Scots.
Ms McAlpine sat in on a session in which a disabled client was being told to switch from Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independence Payment.
She also attended a session advising a disabled pensioner and carer about the benefits to which she was entitled.
Ms McAlpine said:
“The switch from DLA to PIP is causing anxiety to some very vulnerable people. The disabled person who allowed me to sit in her advice session really benefitted from having a DAGCAS expert help with the form.
“The form is 35 pages long and complex, I’d advise anyone who is unsure to get expert help before completing it.”
“The pensioner whose interview I attended had worked hard all her life but was not claiming the benefits to which she was entitled. DAGCAS was able to put her on the right track. The service they perform is saving vulnerable people from destitution every day.”
Ms McAlpine said that her experience in the Irish Street office had “really brought home” the need for co-location of advice services with benefits centres due to the complexity of the Department of Work and Pensions welfare system – this was a suggestion made to the committee by Alex Neil, the Scottish Government Minister for Communities. Most welfare in Scotland will remain in the control of the Westminster run DWP, despite promises made after the referendum to deliver Home Rule to Scotland. Ms McAlpine favours the transfer of all welfare and benefits from Westminster to Scotland.
The SNP MSP said she was also concerned about the cuts to DAGCAS’s budget coming from Dumfries and Galloway’s Labour Council.
Commenting she said:
“I was disappointed to learn that DAGCAS had lost members of staff after funding was withdrawn by Dumfries and Galloway Council. Their expertise is vital at this time when PIP and Universal Credit are being rolled out.”