Reports that the UK Government could charge people for appealing a decision to stop their benefits have been criticised today – after the Scottish Government confirmed that the move would present a further challenge to vulnerable people in Scotland already suffering under Westminster’s welfare reforms.
The proposals were set out in a leaked Department for Work and Pensions memo and would see anyone who has had their benefits stopped being charged for the right to appeal – despite figures showing that 58% of appeals against DWP sanctions have been successful.
SNP MSP Kevin Stewart raised the issue in a parliamentary question ahead of Thursday’s debate on welfare reform. In her response, Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess, noted that the Scottish Government had not been informed of the proposals, which she said would undermine its efforts to tackle poverty.
The stark choice of two futures facing Scotland on welfare was further underlined this week by figures showing that Westminster’s welfare reforms could push another 100,000 children into poverty by 2020.
Commenting, Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart said:
“The idea that the UK Government thinks it is acceptable to further penalise already vulnerable people is completely unfair – especially when figures show that more than half of appeals against sanctions prove to be successful. People who have their benefits withdrawn will simply be unable to afford to challenge what in many cases will be unjust sanctions.
“Recent reports showed that almost 10,000 sick and disabled people in Scotland were wrongly told they were fit for work – if these people had been forced to pay for the right to appeal many would have been left without the support they need to get by.
“Westminster’s punitive attitude to welfare highlights the choice of two futures Scotland faces. With a No vote these unfair Tory policies will continue to be imposed on Scotland – with a Yes vote, we can take action to make our country fairer and create a welfare system that supports the most vulnerable people in society.”