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Covid-19 Latest News

SUPPORTING SCOTLAND’S STUDENTS

The Scottish Government has provided additional funding to help students facing financial hardship due to covid-19. This will go some way to help alleviate students’ concerns around accommodation costs, mental health issues, general living costs and wellbeing.

For more info, click here.

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Covid-19 Latest News

BRIDGING THE GAPS IN COVID-19 SUPPORT

There are far too many people who are falling through the cracks in the system. The UK Government’s steps to protect incomes and welfare must be more robust and catch everyone to allow them to live with dignity.

SNP Key Asks:

🕒 Delays in receiving support. The five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment must be reduced through the UK government providing a non-repayable grant instead of a loan at the start of a claim, which pushes people into, or further into, debt.

💵 Gaps in support available. Given the gaps in the support available the UK government must introduce a Guaranteed Minimum Income. It must bridge the gaps in the Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support schemes, including amending the date of qualification so people who started work after the 28th February will qualify, and ensuring businesses have access to financial resources – not Universal Credit – until they are reimbursed for salaries or the first payments in June. Gaps in social security must also be bridged, including removing the capital tariff reduction to Universal Credit and implementing support for those with No Recourse to Public Funds.

🧒 Insufficient level of support. Social security payments – including Child Benefit, Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – must be increased.

👩‍⚕️ The rate of Statutory Sick Pay must also be increased in line with a Real Living Wage, and the weekly earnings threshold removed so that all workers can receive SSP irrespective of their weekly earnings or National Insurance contributions.

For info, click here.

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Covid-19 Latest News

MEASURES TO PROTECT INCOMES AND WELFARE

The new measures announced by the Chancellor to protect peoples’ incomes are welcome. While they do not go as far as I would have liked, they will make a significant impact in giving people and their families assurances over their jobs and wages.

SNP colleagues and I will continue to press the UK Government to go further so no person is left behind during this difficult time. Key areas include greater support for the self-employed, improved sick pay, and strengthening the welfare safety net.

No one should be in a situation where they and their family are struggling. As well as pressing for further support at a national level, I am also working closely with local charities and North Lanarkshire Council to ensure no one goes without and local businesses and services are supported.

If we persevere, we will get through this. I urge everyone to continue to follow the expert advice in order to keep themselves safe and save the lives of others.

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IMPROVING SOCIAL MOBILITY

Last week, I spoke in a debate on social mobility. So many people today do not enjoy the things that my generation got to enjoy. With austerity, the gig economy and low wages, hardworking people are not given the full support or opportunities to improve their living standards.

The Scottish Government is doing what it can with our welfare powers by bringing in the Scottish Child Payment to give our children the best start. With independence, we can do more in social security and workplace rights with an end to zero hour contracts and a real Living Wage.

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OVER £143m CUT FROM DISABLED PEOPLE LOOKING FOR WORK

TORY MINISTER CLAIMS “NO SAVINGS” IN RETRACTED STATEMENT WHILE SCOTS DISPROPORTIONATELY HIT

Recent figures have revealed that the UK Government’s policy to abolish the Work Related Activity Component (WRAC) for claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has cut their incomes by over £143.2m since it was enforced in April 2017.

Claimants of ESA suffer from a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work. Claimants are put in one of two groups: the Support Group – those who cannot work – and the Work Related Activity Group – those who require support returning to work.

In April 2017, the UK Government abolished the WRAC resulting in a weekly cut of £29.05. In response to a Parliamentary Question from Mrs Fellows, Disabilities Minister, Justin Tomlinson, claimed that “there are no savings” and that the cut “enabled the Department to recycle money”.

This answer was retracted four days later and replaced with the claim that the figures were not available and would incur disproportionate costs to calculate.

But figures from the House of Commons Library reveal that between April 2017 and June 2019, approximately over £143.2m has been cut from people with disabilities seeking to get into work.

£19.5m – or 13.6% – has been disproportionately cut from Scottish claimants despite Scotland making up 8.2% of the UK population.

Total cuts are likely to be much higher as Universal Credit claimants in the equivalent Limited Capability for Work group are also affected, but not identifiable. A Treasury forecast in 2017 estimated that by 2020/21, a total of £510m would be cut from ESA and Universal Credit incomes through the measure.

Commenting, the SNP’s Disabilities spokesperson, Marion Fellows, said:

“Recent figures show the shocking extent of the Tories punitive cuts to the incomes of society’s most vulnerable people.  A cut to peoples’ incomes of over £1,500 a year has had a devastating impact. The Tories must reverse their cuts.

“The Minister’s response is insulting to those people whose incomes are being hit. Worse yet, the UK Government has shamefully tried to hide how much they have cut by claiming it is too expensive to calculate when the Commons Library was easily able to produce reliable figures.

“Scotland is bearing the brunt of this Tory cut. With independence, we can take control of all welfare powers and use them to support disabled people into work. We can do this by improving the Access to Work scheme and implementing protective legislation for disabled people.

“Instead, the Tories’ are using their brutal welfare regime as a stick to beat vulnerable people into work by depriving them of basic support. These figures are especially shocking given many people have been wrongfully declared capable of working.

“This is in stark contrast to the work of the SNP Scottish Government who are building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect. With the full powers, we can do so much more.”