Duncan Smith ignores pleas to suspend Universal Credit in Scotland

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By a Newsnet.scot Reporter

The Coalition government has ignored protests from dozens of leading Scottish voluntary organisations and pressed ahead with the controversial rolling-out of its “Universal Credit” scheme at numerous Scottish Jobcentres.

The roll-out of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments is going ahead, despite pleas for the implementation in Scotland to be suspended pending the planned devolution of certain welfare powers.

That devolution is supposedly to happen after the UK election this May, according to the major parties who say they are committed to implementing the Smith Commission recommendations, regardless of the shade of government in Westminster after the poll.

More than 50 welfare organisations had supported suspending the roll-out because it is likely that the Scottish Parliament will want to change the rules currently envisaged by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in London.

Iain Duncan Smith MP
Iain Duncan Smith MP

They wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith last month calling for the suspension until the process of legislating for new welfare powers for Scotland is completed.

 But Smith has ordered that 150 UK job centres – including Scotland – move over to the new benefit system from today.

Inverness was included in a pilot scheme, but there has been no detailed public disclosure of how that experiment went.

The programme has been long in the making and whose delays were criticised by the National Audit Office. It combines six types of benefits – including ISA, housing benefit and tax credits – into one payment. The Coalition claims it is coming in under budget, but there is no explanation why that might be.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“As the rollout of Universal Credit steps up a gear, the Westminster Government has once again shown that it is completely incapable of listening.

“Extensive evidence has been put forward by charity organisations from across Scotland that the rollout should be stopped while powers are transferred, but Iain Duncan Smith refuses to act.

“With charity organisations on the front line of dealing with Westminster’s welfare cuts simply being ignored, it is clearer than ever that Westminster cannot be trusted to make decisions over welfare on Scotland’s behalf.

“The fact is that the current proposals for welfare devolution go nowhere near far enough and leave far too much control in the hands of Westminster.

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A letter signed by 56 organisations was published in The Herald newspaper on January 11 to Iain Duncan Smith MP.

For the record, Newsnet.scot publishes details of the organisations below:

Age Scotland – Brian Sloan, CEO
Business for Scotland – Brandon Malone, Interim Chair
Church of Scotland – Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly
Coalition of Care Support Providers in Scotland – Annie Gunner Logan, Director,
Common Weal – The Board
Constitutional Commission – John Drummond, Chairman
Council of Mortgage Lenders – Kennedy Foster, Policy Consultant, Scotland
Cyrenians – Ewan Aitken, CEO
Development Trusts Association – Ian Cooke, Director
East Lothian Tenants and Residents Panel – Mark Ormiston, Chair Person
Edinburgh Tenants Federation – Betty Stevenson, Convenor
Engender – Emma Ritch, Executive Director
Food Train – Michelle McCrindle, CEO
Glasgow & West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations – David Bookbinder, Director
Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland – Ian Welsh, CEO
Inclusion Scotland – Bill Scott, Director of Policy
Money Advice Scotland – Yvonne MacDermid OBE, CEO
Quarriers – Alice Drife, CEO
Scottish Association of Social Work – Trisha Hall, Country Manager
Scottish Children’s Services Coalition – Sophie Pilgrim, Member
Scottish Community Alliance – Angus Hardie, Director
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations – Martin Sime, CEO
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations – Mary Taylor, CEO
Scottish Out of School Care Network – Irene Audain MBE, CEO
Scottish Trade Unions Council – David Moxham, Deputy General Secretary
Scottish Women’s Aid – Lily Greenan, CEO
Sense Scotland – Andy Kerr, CEO
Social Enterprise Scotland – Fraser Kelly, CEO
Social Firms Scotland – Pauline Graham, CEO
St Martins Parish Pastoral Council, Tranent – Fr James Smith. Parish Priest
The Equality Network – Tim Hopkins, Director
The Jimmy Reid Foundation – Bob Thomson, Convener
The Poverty Alliance Peter Kelly, Director
The Wise Group – Laurie Russell, CEO
The Trussell Trust – David McAuley, CEO
Turning Point Scotland – Martin Cawley, CEO
Who Cares? Scotland – Duncan Dunlop, CEO
Voluntary Action Scotland – Calum Irving, CEO
Voluntary Health Scotland – Claire Stevens, CEO
YouthLink Scotland – Jim Sweeney, CEO
Zero Tolerance – Laura Tomson, Co-director

Housing Associations included:
ARK Housing Association – Jane Gray, CEO
Barony Housing Association – Rebecca Wilson, CEO
Bield Housing & Care – Brian Logan, CEO
Blackwood – Fanchea Kelly, CEO
Cairn Housing Association – Jason MacGilp, CEO
Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association – Alister Steele, Managing Director
Dunedin Canmore Group – Ewan Fraser, CEO
Hanover (Scotland) Housing Association – Helen Murdoch, CEO
Knowes Housing Association – Pierre De Fence, Director
Lister Housing Co-operative – Alistair Cant, Director
Manor Estates Housing Association – Lynn McDonald, Director
Melville Housing Association – Andrew Noble, CEO
Prospect Community Housing – Brendan Fowler, Director
Trafalgar Housing Association – Paul McShane, Director
Trust Housing Association – Bob McDougall, CEO
West Granton Housing Co-operative – Gerry Gillies, CEO