STUC disabled workers warn UK Government benefit cuts will deepen adult and child poverty in Scotland

Trade unions in Scotland condemn the UK Government for cuts to disability benefits and the impact on child poverty as the social security minister outlines new powers devolved to Scotland

SCOTTISH trade unions have come together to condemn the UK Government for cuts to disability benefits and the impact on child poverty.

The STUC disabled workers conference passed the motion at their conference at the weekend expressing concern that many disabled people will lose their independence and employment as a result of UK Government cuts.

Julie Ferguson from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) moved the motion by telling the conference that “the UK Government is seeking to cut its annual social security spending by £12bn per year by 2017-2018”.

As part of the package, the UK Government will phase out Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replacing it with Personal Independence Payment (PIP), saving the taxpayer more than £4bn according to the government.   

The STUC disabled workers conference reiterated that “cuts to disability benefits represent an attack on some of the most vulnerable people in society and they will deepen adult and child poverty in Scotland”.

“The UK Government is seeking to cut its annual social security spending by £12bn per year by 2017-2018.” Julie Ferguson, Educational Institute of Scotland

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, up to 370,000 disabled claimants will lose on average £3,500 in each social security income.

Christine Mitchell from the USDAW, which seconded the motion, told the conference: “The scale and the pace of the cuts in related to benefits matter.  

“As soon as they [UK Government] were elected, the 2010 budget announced that they are replacing of DLA with PIP. 

“Back then, the chancellor, George Osborne, didn’t mince his words.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts that up to 370,000 disabled claimants will lose on average £3,500 in each social security income.

“He openly debated that they will need to cut spending on benefits by £2m.”

Mitchell added: “How is he achieving this saving? By pushing half a million disabled people out of entitlement.

“In their push to save money, disabled people, out of independence.

“The Westminster government conveniently forgot that the connection that DLA is designed to meet the extra costs of living with a disability. It is and was never intended as an economic benefit.”

“As soon as they [UK Government] were elected, the 2010 budget announced that they are replacing of DLA with PIP. “ Christine Mitchell, USDAW

The STUC disabled workers committee will now lobby the Scottish Government to use its new social security powers in whatever way possible to mitigate the worst effects of cuts to disabled people’s income.

But the Scottish Government’s social security minister told conference that her government is unable to reverse the cuts imposed by Westminster.

Jeane Freeman told the conference that the new social security powers that the Scottish Government will get only come to 15 per cent of the social security system at Westminister.

Freeman outlined what the Scottish Government is doing to help the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

“We already spend £400m a year mediating the worst effects of those welfare cuts.” Jeane Freeman

The Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP said: “We already spend £400m a year mediating the worst effects of those welfare cuts.

“We know fine well that really does touch the surface, but £100m out of the Scottish budget, which itself has been cut in the last decade, is a sufficient commitment.”

In her speech to conference, Freeman outlined the new social security powers that the Scottish Parliament is going to get that will benefit disabled workers. 

“The golden opportunity for those of us in this room is to design a social security system in Scotland that shows what a public service inside a proper welfare state could look like.” Jeane Freeman

Benefits such as DLA and PIP will be transferred as well Attendance Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance as part of the Smith Commission.

Freeman told the conference that this was “the golden opportunity for those of us in this room is to design a social security system in Scotland that show what a public service inside a proper welfare state could look like. That is a price worth paying”.

Read more from the conference – Disability trade unions worried about workers' human rights in event of Brexit and STUC disabled workers concerned about Scotrail plan for driver-only trains

Picture courtesy of Neil Moralee

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.