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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine was so shocked after helping to distribute food parcels for a Dumfries charity that she has protested to the UK minister responsible for welfare cuts.

After helping volunteers at the First Base charity Ms McAlpine wrote to Iain Duncan Smith telling him of her experience and asking that he rethink the sanctions regime imposed on many job seekers.

Ms McAlpine said sanctions were leaving increasing numbers of people completely destitute through no fault of their own.  She was also shocked that many of those visiting First Base requested “non-cooking” food parcels because they had no money for gas and electricity.

Commenting, the SNP MSP said:

“As I’ve made clear in the past, I have many concerns relating to Westminster’s overhaul of the welfare system, but my recent visit to First Base really hit home the devastating impact of the UK Government’s reforms upon a number of my constituents.

“Evidence of Westminster’s failure on welfare grows by the day. Only last month it was revealed that there had been a staggering 563 per cent increase in benefit sanctions on lone parents since 2009.

“This is simply not acceptable, and I have written to the Pensions Secretary urging him to take action.

The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but we need the full powers of independence to build a welfare state that empowers people, tackling poverty and helping to bring about the fairer Scotland we all want to see.”

Mark Frankland, Manager of First Base said:

“What is the most frustrating aspect of the huge rise in demand for emergency food we have seen over the last year is that this is an entirely man made crisis.

“This isn’t like the recent typhoon in the Philippines where an act of God caused a crisis. People are being sanctioned for the flimsiest of reasons by Job Centre staff, who seem to have targets to hit.

“What makes it worse is the fact that none of these actions save the tax payer any money. On the contrary, it costs money when some people choose to secure three hot meals a day and a warm bed by getting themself jailed at a cost of £5000 a month.”

He added:

“These policies are purely political and carefully designed to tap into the prevailing anti welfare mood in parts of the country.”

Notes to editors:

Please find attached a letter from Joan McAlpine MSP to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Picture from left to right, First Base volunteers Anne and Iain, Joan McAlpine MSP.

pdf icon 20140708-Letter-to-IDS.pdf