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UK BUDGET TODAY

Scotland – our people, communities and services – have suffered under a decade of Tory austerity. With today’s budget, it is expected that it will continue. The Scottish Government Budget 2020-21 is still 2.8% (£840 million) lower in real terms compared to 2010-11. The £1.2bn extra next financial year will not reverse the £13.9bn of cumulative cuts.

Despite these pressures, the Scottish Government has delivered record public investment. For the first time, the NHS in Scotland will have a budget of £15bn. £800 million will be invested to deliver 50,000 new homes this parliament. The £10 weekly Scottish Child Payment, which when fully rolled out from this year, will help 30,000 children out of poverty as part of £3.4 billion in social security.

This shows what Scotland can do with one hand tied behind our back. Imagine what we can do with all the powers over our economy and society. Scotland has demanded to choose its future. We can either continue with tax cuts for the richest and under investment, or we can be independent and invest in our people.

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PAN SHOWCASES SUPPORT FOR SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES

MARION WELCOMES SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR FAMILIES

The Motherwell and Wishaw Poverty Action Network (PAN) was reconvened by local MP Marion Fellows on Friday and heard from One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) and other local groups on their work.

PAN was formed by Marion Fellows to allow local bodies to work together and learn from one another with the aim to tackle poverty and its indirect effects.

Local groups spoke about the work they were doing and heard about OPFS’s work in outreach to single-parents and their services in welfare inclusion, domestic abuse, employability, and family support. Single-parents can benefit from training, income maximisation, mental health support, and financial planning.

Mrs Fellows says the Scottish Government’s new Scottish Child Payment (SCP) will be “transformative” for families. By Christmas 2020, low income families with children under six will receive payments of £10 per week. The SCP is expected to lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

The Scottish Government will have also almost doubled free provision of childcare to 30 hours a week. Free childcare has already been increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds from low income households.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“It was once again a pleasure to hear from OPFS and other local groups which are doing amazing work in our communities to tackle poverty.

“OPFS are engaging with these families and giving them the support they need to stay on their feet. Our children deserve the best start in life, and they are helping give it to them through comprehensive support.

“Incomes are being squeezed by the two-child tax credit cap Universal Credit’s five-week waiting time and cuts. This will make things especially tough for single-parent families who can only earn one income.

“For these families, the Scottish Government’s transformative Child Payment and extended childcare provision will give them the funds and opportunities to get into the workplace so they can raise their household income and give their children the best start.

“Unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government is using its powers to create a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.”

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MP BACKS HOUSING HUMAN RIGHT AND RENT CONTROLS

SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, Marion Fellows, has signed Shelter Scotland’s petition to enshrine the right to a decent home in Scots Law and backed calls from tenants’ union, Living Rent, for rent controls on private lets.

Shelter’s campaign was launched after research conducted by YouGov for Shelter Scotland found that 88% of people surveyed agreed that everyone in Scotland should have a legal right to a safe, secure and affordable home and that 76% support a new law being created in Scotland for adequate housing for everyone in the country.

Mrs Fellows has also backed calls from Scotland’s tenants’ union, Living Rent, to introduce rent controls on the private sector which was backed by 12,000 petitioners in March this year.

Mrs Fellows says that while the Scottish Government pledged to build 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this Parliament, 35,000 of which would be for the social rented sector, access to housing can be widened and household incomes can be increased if the cost of rents in the private sector are made affordable with rent controls.

A study from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that families living in private rented accommodation and receiving Local Housing Allowance were struggling to find and afford homes in their area after the UK Government froze LHA in 2016.

On average, 19.5 per cent of the market was available to Scottish families – 10.5 per cent lower than what is supposed to be.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“A wealthy, twenty-first century country is able to provide the bare necessity of a home to everyone. We have civil rights such as the right to vote, free speech and assembly. Social rights – like a right to a home – must be equally protected.

“As people struggle under Tory austerity, Universal Credit, stagnating incomes and high costs of living, rent controls can ensure the people with the broadest shoulders take weight off people without homes and renters who tend to have low incomes and take part in precarious work.

“The SNP Scottish Government is leading the way in building thousands of affordable homes, but people are still struggling to afford the private sector. We can do more to tackle homelessness and financial inequality with rent controls and ensure the human right to a home is realised.”

A spokesperson for Living Rent said:

“Living Rent warmly welcomes Marion Fellows’ endorsement of our proposal for the rent controls that Scotland needs. It is heartening to see that in conjunction with Shelter Scotland’s proposal to solidify housing as a human right, there is proper consideration being given for the number one impediment to a decent home: the cost.

“We would encourage other SNP MP’s and MSP’s to follow Marion’s lead and begin the process for implementing a system of rent controls that ensures the private rented sector meets the housing rights of tenants across Scotland.”E

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CLOSING THE GENDER PAY GAP

Women in Motherwell and Wishaw, and across Scotland, are earning 10% less than their male counterparts. We have to ensure equal opportunities and equal pay.

Under austerity, women as a whole take a bigger hit than men with policies like the two-child cap. As women are more likely to be carers, children are then deprived of support in the process. Entire families, including those in full time work, are being pushed into poverty as wages and welfare decrease and the cost living increases.

The Minister is right that women will disproportionately benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. But a minimum wage must be a real National Living Wage. All workers – men or women – deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work to ensure they and their family have the standard of living they deserve.

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SOCIAL SECURITY SCOTLAND SHOWCASE SERVICES AT POVERTY ACTION NETWORK

MP MARION CONVENES PAN AS SCOT GOV BRINGS FORWARD NEW PAYMENTS

Motherwell and Wishaw MP, Marion Fellows, today convened the Poverty Action Network (PAN) in Motherwell where the Scottish Government’s new welfare agency, Social Security Scotland (SSS), showcased their new services.

SSS announced earlier this month that the implementation of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Child Payment, intended to launch in 2021, is ahead of schedule and will be open to applications in Autumn 2020.

Low income families will be able to access £10 a week for every child aged 0-6 which will lift 30,000 children out of poverty. It will be rolled out in full to eligible families by the end of 2022, benefiting 410,000 children with £500 a year per child.

SSS is already providing support in Scotland through five payments, including the Carers’ Allowance Supplement delivering an extra £452.40 a year to 83,000 carers across Scotland.

Low income parents can also apply for three separate Best Start Grants to ensure young people get the best start in life in their earliest year.

Applications for the new Funeral Support Payment will open on Monday 16 September (2019). The eligibility criteria have been expanded making 40% more people able to claim.

SSS are liaising with groups across Scotland to see how they can best meet the needs of communities to build a social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect.

Commenting, Motherwell and Wishaw MP and PAN Chair, Mrs Fellows said:

“In contrast to the Tories’ despicable welfare regime attacking those most in need, the Scottish Government is building a social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect.

“The Scottish Government is already delivering support to people in need and will next year deliver another life changing payment to lift children out of poverty through the Scottish Child Payment. An extra £500 a year will benefit so many families across Motherwell and Wishaw.

“Support is being targeted at the most vulnerable people in our society. I am confident the new payments will go a long way in tackling child poverty locally and across Scotland. The Scottish Government will not allow children to be left behind.

“As more people transfer to Universal Credit, more and more incomes will be squeezed. Local groups and the Scottish Government therefore are doing more to mitigate against the UK Government’s austerity policies.”

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TORY IGNORANCE TO SNP POVERTY ACTION

NLC Tory leader Meghan Gallacher said: “The SNP has been in power in Scotland since 2007, in which time it has made no impact on poverty whatsoever. It’s time the nationalists used the many powers at their disposal…”

This is the comment from a Tory councillor in an article that is specifically about how the SNP’s Welfare Fund is providing a lifeline to people in crisis – often as a result of Tory policies pushing them into poverty.

The SNP has mitigated the Tories’ Bedroom Tax and expanded Carer’s Allowance. The Scottish Government is actively using the powers at its disposal.

While the Tories recite the same tired, old lines, the SNP are taking action to help the most vulnerable in our communities. Not standing on their heads to subsidise tax cuts for the richest like the Tories.

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POVERTY AT PMQS

The United Nations has recently joined other radical organisations such as the National Audit Office in condemning the Government’s failure to address the tragedy which is poverty. At yesterday’s PMQs, I raised this with Theresa May.

The Prime Minister’s response was not to accept this criticism, nor was it to acknowledge how poverty continues to be a huge problem in our society.

Instead, Mrs May’s response was to callously deny and deflect: a response typical of a Tory Government whose ongoing austerity measures, farcical implementation of Universal Credit, draconian treatment of the most vulnerable in our communities, and continued shambolic handling of Brexit continues to exacerbate the very real and very tragic issue of poverty.

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MAY HAS ‘HEAD IN THE SAND’ OVER UK’S POVERTY PROBLEM

PRIME MINISTER’S RESPONSE TO UN POVERTY REPORT IS SHAMEFUL

An SNP MP has slammed Theresa May’s dismissive ‘head in the sand’ response to concerns about poverty in the UK – warning the Prime Minister’s refusal to accept and address the issue was part of the problem.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, Marion Fellows challenged the Prime Minister on the UN report into poverty in the UK, and the damaging impact of UK government cuts to Universal Credit.

The United Nations have joined other bodies like the National Audit Office in their condemnation of the UK government’s failure to tackle poverty. The report accused UK government Ministers of being ‘in denial’ about poverty.

Commenting, Marion Fellows MP said:

The Prime Minister’s shameful head-in-the-sand response to concerns about rising poverty in the UK has proven the point of the UN Special Rapporteur, who accused UK Ministers of being in denial about the problem.

The UK government’s refusal to admit and address this issue will only lead to even more families facing poverty and deprivation.

It’s time for the Tories at Westminster to wake up and take action on their shambolic record on poverty, heeding calls from the SNP to take action on the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit, scrapping the two-child cap and ending the ideologically-driven benefit freeze.

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This Week #46

6th – 12th March 2017





There were a number of meetings and briefings for Marion to attend at Westminster on Tuesday, as the Motherwell and Wishaw MP had a busy day of parliamentary business.



Prime Minister’s Questions followed the weekly meeting of the Education Select Committee on Wednesday, before Marion participated in the Westminster Hall debate on financial support for apprentices:

In this case, there is a lot to be learnt because of the positive way forward and how the Scottish Government understand and realise the necessity of training a highly skilled workforce to move us forward with lots of economic opportunity. We have a different agenda—I will not go into that now—but it is important for economic growth that every country looks at how it best trains and prepares.

As a former further education lecturer, I understand only too well the difficulties young people have when they are in any kind of education, and how important it is that they are properly resourced. It is also true in Scotland that apprentices do not fare quite as well as others. Although the rates are higher, they have the same issues and do not qualify for some things—again, that is a DWP issue to do with child benefit and so on. I would like the Minister to look at that because it is important.

I am the product of an academic route, as are many people in this room. I know the academic route does not suit everyone, and even if someone goes down the academic route, it does not always guarantee them a job. In Scotland we have the graduate apprenticeship scheme, which is proving really useful because it gives people real, hands-on experience and makes them much more employable. The whole idea of apprentices being cheap labour, serving their time and then being paid off has to end.

Marion’s full contribution can be found here.



Marion had another day of parliamentary business in London on Thursday, with her constituency office staff also attending the fantastic first session of Newarthill Library’s Storytime and Song project.



Friday saw Marion back home in the constituency, working from her office in the Dalziel Building in Motherwell.

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Basics Foodbank reduction in users

I am glad to hear that local foodbank, Basics Foodbank, has reported a reduction in those using their service which has dropped from 174 in December, 2015, to 139 in December, 2016. This is the second year there has been a reduction. A huge 227 people turned to them in December, 2014. The fact that people must turn to a foodbank at Christmas of all times shows the devastation that Tory economic and welfare policies are causing.

I believe the reduction is due to people being made aware of, and accessing, services which mean they only use a food bank as a last resort. The Scottish Welfare Fund – set up by the Scottish Government to mitigate the Tory sanction regime and welfare cuts – has been invaluable in assisting people in need who often have nowhere else to turn.

Services such as Welfare Rights and Citizen’s Advice Bureaux have also been a great source of assistance.

My office provides similar services regarding welfare appeals for example, which is one of the most common reasons people turn to food banks.

Without complete control over taxation, welfare and employment law, the Scottish Government cannot get people out of poverty and into work, or create a fair welfare system.