Clare Adamson MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Clare Adamson

Thank you, Presiding Officer. As I said, this has been my first opportunity to speak on behalf of the committee, and I hope that I have reflected the debate this afternoon. I look forward to continuing that work with the committee.



Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Clare Adamson (Central Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to my first committee debate in my role as deputy convener of the Welfare Reform Committee. I thank the previous members of the committee for their hard work in producing both of the reports that we are discussing.

I may be new to the post, but I am certainly not new to the concerns and issues around welfare reform. We all hear similar stories in our constituencies about the hardships that people face. There cannot be an MSP or councillor in Scotland who does not understand the level of the problems, because our surgeries are full of people who are seeking help and our mailboxes are full of letters from them.

In the debate earlier this week, I referenced the Citizens Advice Scotland briefing for this week’s debates on welfare. It talked about the need for food banks and the level of poverty being destitution that goes beyond poverty.

While I have been getting up to speed with the committee’s work, some things have really struck me in the evidence. In his opening speech, our convener Michael McMahon mentioned the severity of the new sanctions regime. I want to raise a point about proportionality. As the committee heard in oral evidence from Dr David Webster of the University of Glasgow, the loss of income that sanctions can lead to is now twice the maximum that can be imposed by the fines in our courts. He said:

“the JSA scale of fines runs higher than that which is available to the mainstream courts, yet claimants have none of the protections that an accused in the mainstream courts would have. I am referring to the presumption of innocence, the entitlement to legal representation and the fact that—as I mentioned in my submission—in a mainstream court, before someone is sentenced, the sheriff will call for reports so that the sentence is appropriate.”—[Official Report, Welfare Reform Committee, 1 April 2014; c 1404.]

We have also heard about the DWP shifting the social responsibility and the costs of dealing with the effects of welfare reform, particularly the costs of dealing with sanctioned claimants.

One area where the cost has clearly been put on to the third sector is food banks. The DWP argues that there is no causal link between the increase in food bank use and welfare reforms, but the committee heard different in oral evidence. Dr Filip Sosenko of Heriot-Watt University told the committee that the “strongest evidence” for a link between welfare reform and the demand for food aid was the growth of food aid at a faster rate post April 2013. As we know, April 2013 was when significant changes were made to the welfare system, including the introduction of the so-called bedroom tax, the uprating of benefits by 1 per cent rather than in line with inflation, the assessment of people on disability living allowance and the benefit cap. Those were four significant changes to the welfare system.

To bring the issue down to local level, Community Food Moray said in its written submission that

“The impact of the welfare reform was evident almost overnight.”

It pointed to an increase in referrals post April 2013 from 10 per month to an average of 15 per week.

I will address some of the issues that my colleagues have raised during the debate. In the minister’s opening speech, she framed the Government’s approach to welfare reform within three main priorities: making a prosperous Scotland, tackling inequality and protecting and reforming our public services. The minister ably brought to light some of the work that the Scottish Government is already doing with the powers that we have. She had hoped that the Smith commission would give a significant opportunity to move away from mitigation of the welfare reforms to a system that suits Scotland’s needs. However, in the minister’s assessment, the commission is a missed opportunity.

Ken Macintosh almost broke into consensus. He ably highlighted the work of the charity the Pavement and its word on the streets project. He told us about the plight of Caroline, who had 15 months under sanctions—an apt example of some of the problems that people are experiencing. Mr Macintosh also referenced the committee’s visit to the Parkhead citizens advice bureau, which I am sure was extremely informative and helped the committee in its work.

We heard from two esteemed members of the Smith commission: Annabel Goldie and Linda Fabiani. Ms Goldie looked to future actions and how to influence change and provide mitigation. I share Dr Simpson’s concern about paragraphs 55 and 56 of the Smith commission report, which are on top-up benefits. The concern is whether such benefits may be offset in the future. Ms Fabiani also mentioned that as a concern.

Kevin Stewart highlighted the number of disabled people who have been affected by the reform. He referred to the moving evidence to the committee from John Lindsay and James Nisbet, who ably told us of their experience as people suffering from mental ill health going through the system and having to deal with what they said were punitive measures and often insulting questions.

Cara Hilton thanked the volunteers who work in the food bank sector. She mentioned that we should all regret the need for food banks, and spoke of the great work of volunteers across Scotland. There is a food bank drive in my Central Scotland region on Saturday morning, which I hope to take part in and which I hope is a success. The issue was also highlighted by Joan McAlpine in relation to South Scotland.

Christina McKelvie reminded us of the disproportionate effect that welfare reform has had on women’s incomes, with an estimated £22 billion of the £26 billion of cuts so far being shouldered by women, many of whom are also disabled. Ms McKelvie pointed to the inequality of that and said that it leads to further discrimination against women in our society.

Siobhan McMahon gave us an informed history of the establishment and the growth of food banks in the world and, as Michael McMahon did in his opening speech, Siobhan McMahon said that the three-year period up to which people can be sanctioned is a completely disproportionate and punitive length of time. She also reminded Parliament that use of food banks and third sector organisations to address issues of need that should lie within the responsibilities of the DWP should not be normalised or accepted as the way forward for our society, because those societal burdens should lie with the DWP.

Ms Fabiani talked about the growth in the number of food banks and highlighted the work of a constituent of hers in East Kilbride, Denis Curran, who has worked in food banks for many years. She said that his experience made it impossible to understand how anyone could deny that the austerity policies of Westminster and welfare reforms are linked to the current rise in the number of food banks and their use.

Anne McTaggart spoke passionately about the wider aspects of fuel poverty and the complications of poverty, and Joan McAlpine highlighted the case of Annemarie, who was left in debt for years because of problems arising from the large number of sanctions that had been applied to her.

I come to Alex Johnstone’s summing-up speech. I was interested in the use of language throughout the debate. When we hear members using words such as “punitive” and “inhumane”, it is difficult not to share some of their concerns about how inhumane the sanctions reform is. However, I hope that the consensus and willingness to move forward that Mr Johnstone talked about will work across the chamber. I hope that, in my time on the committee, I will be able to work with all its members to try to solve some of these very difficult problems.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Clare Adamson

Mr McCann, when you talked about a level playing field, did you mean the smaller businesses in the pyramid that was described or the ones that are external to the metal industry?



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Clare Adamson

I will push a wee bit on one issue. You have all given examples of how your legitimate businesses operate and comply with all the regulations. I am not an expert on industry, but my understanding from what has been said is that, in the pyramid of recycling, it is the ones at the bottom who do not have to comply with the same regulations that you have to.

Mr Hetherington mentioned smartphones; obviously technology is becoming much cheaper. In your opinion, are there regulations that you as larger operating businesses have to comply with that could be pushed down easily to the broker level?



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Clare Adamson

You cannot comment on overprovision, Ms Watson, but could you give us an indication of whether you have seen an increase in the number of occasional licences for members’ clubs?



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Clare Adamson

At our evidence session last week, representation was made about changes in the way in which private members’ clubs are operating. Because such premises are subject to a less vigorous regime than an on-trade pub or club, occasional licences may have an impact. It has been said that such situations are not being taken into account when overprovision is being considered by the licensing boards. I would like to get your comments and your view on that.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Clare Adamson (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Given the commercial viability of premises, the difficulties that are caused in terms of what has been said about the licensing boards, and the effect that a large supermarket can have on an area, has any consideration been given to how minimum unit pricing of alcohol might change the situation? Have the licensing boards given any consideration to that?

Will minimum unit pricing of alcohol reduce consumption?



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Clare Adamson (Central Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the debate on the committee’s stage 1 report and I welcome the minister’s comments about the report and the bill. The report says that this is a suitable framework with which to move forward. The bill will give the welfare fund a secure statutory footing. It will demonstrate the fund’s permanency and the commitment to providing such a safety net and security in Scotland.

I joined the Welfare Reform Committee very recently and I am relatively new to the report and to the bill. I thank the committee; its convener, Michael McMahon; and its previous members for their diligence during stage 1 deliberations and for producing a comprehensive and welcome stage 1 report. I am enthused about taking the bill through the committee stage in the coming months.

I was a bit surprised to hear that one of the committee’s members enjoyed his time on the committee. Having read the evidence and seen some of the reports, I have to say that it would be difficult to describe the experience as enjoyable. I am sure that it has been harrowing and difficult for committee members on occasion and I pay tribute to those who have given evidence and come forward to discuss the very difficult situations that they find themselves in.

I have mixed feelings about the bill. It is regrettable that Scottish resources and efforts are to be spent on mitigating bad—indeed, in my opinion, appalling and inhumane—decisions that have been taken in another place. I regret that Scotland did not take on welfare powers in this place as an independent Scotland and that the welfare settlement proposed by the Smith commission does not bring significant powers to shape welfare. I sit with the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the third sector organisations that have said that that is a missed opportunity.

However, the Welfare Reform Committee has done an excellent job. As the minister said, the welfare fund has already helped more than 100,000 households and the bill will put the fund on a statutory footing to ensure that that vital help continues.

I thank the third sector organisations that provided briefings for the debate. I was struck by the description in a Citizens Advice Scotland briefing of what destitution in Scotland means. Since the welfare fund is for people in crisis, I wish to put that definition on record. The briefing states:

“Destitution, while an emotive word, is a useful term to use to describe a situation in which a client cannot afford to obtain essentials for life through their own means. This goes beyond poverty, where a person is unable to cut back anymore and needs some sort of external assistance. Bureau statistics do not record these situations specifically, although a number of indicators—such as issues recorded covering food parcels ... show”

that destitution is increasing.

CAS extrapolates from the figures that it has to show that, although one in 50 clients last year who were seeking advice had a recommendation of a food parcel, it expects that by the end of the year, that will go up to as many as one in 42 clients seeking advice. That level of poverty and—as CAS says—destitution in Scotland is simply unacceptable.

I am really glad that the welfare fund has been established and has helped 32,000 families in Scotland. I am more than happy that the stage 1 report, which seems to have been accepted across the chamber, will take forward the bill to ensure that there is a permanent commitment to welfare in Scotland.

It is important to commend the Scottish Government for what it has done so far. The fact that it has topped up the money that was provided by the UK Government by £9 million indicates how seriously it takes the situation. That has not happened across the UK, where the full amount of funding has not been given to welfare funds in some areas.

In the stage 1 report, the Welfare Reform Committee recognises

“the greater stability that a statutory duty for local authorities to maintain a welfare fund brings in securing staff and resources as well as an improved, more holistic service.”

That is important. The Quarriers quote that has been used twice this afternoon already—that the difference between the new system and the previous system is like the difference between night and day—is welcome news in Scotland.

I am glad that the Scottish Government is providing more than £100 million in 2015-16 to protect families from the impact of Westminster welfare cuts, although it is regrettable that such mitigation is necessary. It is unacceptable that anyone should be living in poverty in a country that is as wealthy as Scotland. We are taking action by setting aside £104 million in next year’s budget to tackle poverty and inequality and to help those who are affected by the welfare changes. That is welcome indeed.

I mentioned Citizens Advice Scotland. I note that it is addressing welfare reform and has announced that it has established a new Scottish leaders welfare and benefits group. Lord McFall, who chairs that group, said:

“The overall aim of this group is to work collaboratively to highlight and respond to the impact of recent changes to the welfare and benefits system on the people, services, and communities of Scotland, especially vulnerable people or groups.”

I could not agree with that more and I am glad that a group is looking at the issue.

The response to the stage 1 report shows that consensus can be achieved across the chamber on such an important issue for Scotland. However, I take issue with the title of CAS’s press release:

“New Group aims to investigate Scotland’s broken welfare system”.

If it was Scotland’s system, I do not think that it would be broken. Indeed, if it was Scotland’s system, it would be day to austerity’s night.

15:11  

Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Clare Adamson

That is a welcome step forward, and it now seems to be agreed that it is right for 16 and 17-year-olds to have the vote. It is now incumbent on Westminster to move towards votes for 16 and 17-year-olds in European and Westminster elections.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Clare Adamson

I thank the Deputy First Minister for his answer, which I am sure will be welcomed by members on all sides of the chamber.

The 2014 referendum was exceptional in terms of public engagement and interest. Young people were at the core of that civic engagement, culminating in the fantastic event at the Hydro, which my own son attended. What measures will the Scottish Government take to ensure that young people are as informed and engaged in the 2016 election as they have been in the referendum campaign?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
YesCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Clare Adamson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11841: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11760: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11644: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11526.1: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11572: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11329: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11173: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11151: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11148: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11147: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Clare Adamson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03856: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00877: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23570: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23526: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23525: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02459: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03668: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03625: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 21/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22588: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22356: Clare Adamson, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/08/2014 Show Full Question >>

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