The Westminster government is continuing to ignore the link between welfare cuts and rising food bank use – despite a 400 per cent increase in the number of people relying on food banks in Scotland in the past year.
In a reply to a letter from SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, UK Employment Minister Esther McVey claimed there is “no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks”. This is despite a previous admission from another UK Government Minister that harsh cuts to benefits were to blame.
Under Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell told the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee in June “there isn’t any doubt” that some people have been forced to go to food banks “because they have been subject, for example, to sanctions or delays in receiving benefits”.
Mr Mundell also stated he wanted the UK Government to produce an analysis on food bank use – but this has not yet been done.
The letter from Ms McVey also praises Universal Credit – despite the fact its roll out has faced numerous delays and the system will disadvantage women. Women in Scotland already bear the brunt of Westminster welfare cuts, with research from the House of Commons Library finding 60 per cent of the impact falls on them.
Joan McAlpine said:
“This latest letter from Esther McVey confirms that the Westminster government has no intention whatsoever of facing up to the damage they are causing with harsh, unfair welfare reforms.
“Despite David Mundell’s admission three months ago that he believed the UK Government should carry out analysis on food bank use, no action has been taken. Instead, Ms McVey buries her head in the sand – ignoring the plight of thousands across the country who can’t afford put food on the table because of the actions of her government.
“Universal Credit has faced delay after delay – and once implemented it will disadvantage women. Women across Scotland are already bearing the brunt of Westminster’s welfare reforms – with analysis showing that 69 per cent of the impact of cuts falls on them.
“Westminster has shown time and time again that it cannot be trusted with welfare. It is time for the Scottish Parliament to have the powers we need to make Scotland a fairer, more equal country and address the causes of inequality.”
A copy of Esther McVey’s letter to Joan McAlpine is attached.
In June, David Mundell admitted welfare cuts were linked to rising food bank use.
The implementation of Universal Credit by the Westminster Government has been shambolic.
· In 2010 the DWP White Paper ‘Welfare that Works’ said all new claims for out-of-work benefits would be for Universal Credit by October 2013.
· Iain Duncan Smith reinforced this in November 2011 by saying that 1 million people would be claiming Universal Credit by 2014.
· However, in March 2013 it was announced that following the Pathfinder phase (in only 4 areas, itself delayed), only 6 Job Centre Plus areas would take claims for Universal Credit from October 2013. It was later made clear that this would be limited to unemployed single claimants.
· In December 2013, OBR statistics confirm that only a handful of people would be claiming UC in 2014-15 and the number in 2015-16 will be 0.4m – down from the 4.5m originally estimated.
· In September 2013 the National Audit Office report that the programme suffered from “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance”
· In November 2013, the Public Accounts Committee says, in a damning report, that management of the project has been “extraordinarily poor”.
· The Committee also said that oversight allowed the UC team to become “isolated and defensive” which made it difficult for them “to be candid when reporting progress”. The Committee was disappointed that problems “were often hidden by a culture prevalent in the Department which promoted only the telling of ‘good news’”
Universal Credit will have an adverse impact on women.
· Universal Credit will replace benefits previously paid direct to the primary carer who is usually the mother. Household payments will make it more likely to go to the father.
· Oxfam have raised concerns about this proposal as “research shows that money coming into the household through the ‘purse’ (woman) is more likely to be spent on children’s needs than money that comes in through the ‘wallet’ (man)” and consolidating these into a single payment “could have negative impacts upon children’s welfare”.
· Universal Credit currently applies a single earnings disregard when people move into work, reducing the incentive to work for second earners.
· The DWP’s own impact assessment said: “…second earners do not benefit as much from the reduced taper under Universal Credit.” (p22)
· Research from the House of Commons Library has shown that women already bear the brunt of Westminster welfare reforms – with 69 per cent of the impact falling on them.