Holyrood elections 2016 - it’s third sector question time

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​Scotland's main political parties bring their election pitches to the third sector.

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8th April 2016 by Graham Martin 3 Comments

The clock is ticking towards election day for the Scottish Parliament on 5 May - and TFN has asked Scotland's five major political parties to make their pitch to the country's charities and voluntary groups.

Every week until polling day, we will be publishing their responses, in print and online, asking them two questions each on four categories crucial to our sector - social justice and poverty, the environment, families and young people and health and social care.

We start this week by asking the Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems, the SNP and the Scottish Greens questions relating to social justice.

What are the radical changes that should be made to create a fairer more equitable Scottish welfare system?

Liberal Democrats: The devolution of new powers over welfare gives the opportunity to build a system that provides a better link between social security benefits and the services provided by the Scottish Government and local councils. To be effective the new system needs cross-party support. It must be accessible, fair and respect the dignity of individuals. It needs to command the full confidence of claimants and the organisations and services that support them. Our priorities include increasing Carers’ Benefit to bring it into line with the rate for jobseekers’ allowance and making sure the bedroom tax is fully removed from the Scottish system.

Scottish Green Party: With a number of welfare benefits being devolved for the first time and after decades of reform that has warped our welfare system, Scottish Greens believe now is the time to radically re-found the benefits system in Scotland. This should start with the setting up of a Social Security Commission to explore and recommend the principles on which a Scottish benefits system should be established. We will also replace the failed Work Programme with a scheme that genuinely invests in people's skills and ambitions, and ban cruel benefit sanctions being applied to anyone enrolled on a Scottish employment programme.

Scottish National Party: With new powers over welfare being devolved, we will establish a new social security agency putting dignity and respect at its heart. We will provide an additional £20 million to create a robust Scottish alternative for Work Programme and Work Choice clients by working closely with the third sector – and carefully consult on how we can improve services in future years. Our system will take account of individual needs, reduce assessments and support those facing mental health challenges. We will increase Carer’s Allowance to the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance, abolish the bedroom tax and scrap the 84 day rule which removes income from the families of disabled children. We will provide greater support for families at risk of in work poverty and introduce flexibility around how Universal Credit is paid including giving people choice to be paid twice monthly.

Scottish Labour Party: Scottish Labour’s vision for tomorrow’s Scotland is one where the powers coming to the Scottish Parliament are used in full for the full benefit of the people of Scotland. We must choose to take the opportunity to forge our own future and break from the damaging policies of Cameron and Osborne. That means creating a Scottish Social Security System which is built on and embodies spirit of dignity and respect. As Labour, we fundamentally believe that work is always the best welfare and we will create a new employment structure to help get people get into work and help them get on in work. But for those who are not able to, we will create a system which offers support and positive outcomes and not punitive sanctions and more cuts. We would use the new powers over welfare to increase the rate of carers allowance, deliver increased maternity grants for new mums and provide full university grants for young people leaving care.

Conservative Party: The UK government embarked on a radical welfare reform programme in 2010, in the face of extreme political opposition. It had to be done - the UK was being allowed to slip into a culture of benefits. Since then, 170,000 more people in Scotland are in work, and more people have started up their own enterprises. Crucially, that means those who genuinely need help and cannot work through no fault of their own can be focused on more carefully. But it's a long-term mission, and of course much of the detail still has to be finessed.

Should there be a concerted push, with targets, to make all employers commit to the Living Wage?

Liberal Democrats: Yes. And we will do that. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are already a Living Wage employer and our manifesto commitment to pay all public sector workers the Living Wage is another step in the right direction. We will also continue and expand the Scottish Government’s Fair Business Pledge to encourage business practices on decent wages, profit-sharing and investment in young people. In the past decade the Scottish Government has handed out £5 million of taxpayers’ money to Amazon, which doesn’t pay workers the Living Wage. We won’t give government grants to companies that fail to pay the Living Wage.

Scottish Green Party: Yes. It is unacceptable that very low wages mean that some people in our society can work full time and still live in poverty, and our ambition is for all employers to pay a Living Wage. We will also campaign to make government business support available only to those companies who plan to pay the Living Wage. Scottish Greens are also committing to a Living Wage Plus of £9 an hour for all care staff, people doing a very valued job who currently are among the lowest paid people in Scotland.

Scottish National Party: Scotland has a higher proportion of workers paid the Living Wage than any other nation in the UK and we have ensured that from October the Living Wage will be paid to social care workers across our country. Over the last 18 months we have seen the number of Living Wage employers increase from 78 to 500. To continue this progress we’ve set a target of at least 1000 Living Wage accredited employers by next autumn. We will work with the Living Wage Accreditation initiative, the Fair Work Convention and use the Scottish Business Pledge to focus our efforts on key sectors.

Scottish Labour Party: There needs to be a real drive to make Scotland a Living Wage nation, and Scottish Labour is committed to that. One of the first things a Scottish Labour Government would do is establish a Scottish Living Wage Commission to play a productive, long term advisory role, with a focus from its inception that no one in Scotland should be payed below the Living Wage.

Conservative Party: Our belief is that the UK government's living wage, announced last year, will make a tremendous difference to the low paid. In addition, in his budget George Osborne lifted thousands more people out of taxation altogether. We think those two measures is fantastic progress for now, and of course all employers will be compelled to pay this.

Comments

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8th April 2016 by Mary O' the Colonies

I must be hallucinating Graham. I swore I could see SNP answers to the questions, but obviously I couldn't because they didn't answer them, despite frequent requests.

14th April 2016 by Amanda

Was it TFN or Labour that couldn't spell paid in their quote? "no one in Scotland should be payed below the Living Wage"

14th April 2016 by Amanda

Oh heavens, and the Scottish Conservatives don't know their plurals? "those two measures is fantastic progress" TFN, can't you edit on their behalf?