Kevin Stewart MSP

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Kevin Stewart MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

Member of the Conveners Group

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Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Kevin Stewart

Will Mr Simpson give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Kevin Stewart (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)

I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about welfare for the second time this week. I might repeat some of the things that the committee’s convener has just said and some of the things that I said on Tuesday, but I think that that repetition will be worth while.

On sanctions, the committee noted a few major problems, such as: a consistent failure to notify people that they are being sanctioned; a lack of flexibility; a prevalence of the misapplication of sanctions, which reduce the likelihood of people finding work; and a failure to appreciate that many people on benefits do not have the necessary information technology skills on day 1 to use the DWP’s universal jobmatch facility or other IT systems.

According to Inclusion Scotland, 132,074 sanctions were applied in Scotland, with more than 33,463 of them being applied between January and March this year. Inclusion Scotland suggests that nearly 30,000 JSA sanctions will have been applied against disabled people in Scotland. That is a huge amount of people who will have been affected by the sanctions regime.

On 9 December, during one of its your say sessions, the committee heard from two witnesses about their experiences of the welfare system. One of the gentlemen who was there, John Lindsay, has never actually been sanctioned but has a great fear of being sanctioned. At one point, he moved to Aberdeen to seek work because he was so scared of being sanctioned. He said:

“It kind of finished me off. After that, I was really down, depressed and anxious. It was the final straw. Within a week or two, I got a sick note from the doctor and went on to employment and support allowance. What happened really pushed me over the edge. I had to go up to Aberdeen, away from my family. When I was told at the interview that I had the job, I was told also what it would be like and that the accommodation would be great and so on, but it was an absolute disgrace. When I went there and saw that, and when I heard the stories from other people, I could not have stayed in the house any longer. I had to get away the next day and go home—it really pushed me over the edge. After that, I was just so anxious all the time about getting sanctioned.”

Mr Lindsay has suffered from mental health problems from a young age. During the course of his evidence, he went on to say:

“It builds up. If a person has depression, anxiety or whatever, and somebody talks to them as if they are a piece of dirt, they will take it personally, think about it and obsess about it, and before they know it, within a day or two they are a complete nutjob. They just do not function right. They end up obsessing about the matter and then get really ill. That is what I am like, anyway.”

He has a real fear of sanctions, even though he has never been sanctioned.

The other witness that day was Mr James Nisbet. He said:

“When I first came off ESA and was having a problem getting back on JSA, I went in on the first day with my wife, because I did not feel comfortable going back in to sign on, and the assessor saw the two of us together. I had not been sat down for 10 minutes when she was setting me sanctions. I said, ‘What are you going to sanction me for?’ She said, ‘You’re not doing enough job searches.’ I said, ‘I’ve only just started. I cannae work a computer,’ and that is why I ended up having to go on a computer course for nine months. I do not know what has happened now—perhaps Westminster has taken the pressure off—but Atos were like the Gestapo. I do not know whether I should say that.”—[Official Report, Welfare Reform Committee, 9 December 2014; c 12, 22, 19.]

These are real people and that is how they have been affected by the current regime. That is why it is so upsetting that real people are not being listened to by the DWP ministers and that DWP ministers will not appear in front of our committee to hear about real people.

We have already heard from the convener about the attitude of Neil Couling of the DWP. After he said that the increase in the number of food banks is down to the increase in supply rather than an increase in demand due to the increase in sanctions, I said that he was talking claptrap and living in cloud cuckoo land. Many of my constituents have said much worse.

I wish that Neil Couling and others would go and talk to Barry at the Trussell Trust in Aberdeen, or Christine at Community Food Initiatives North East, or Sophie, an instant neighbour who, along with volunteers, is running these food banks. Then they would get a true idea of what is actually going on out there.

The Scottish Government’s expert group on welfare produced the report “Rethinking Welfare: Fair, Personal & Simple”, which is a very good document. What we have from the Westminster Government is unfair, impersonal and simplistic, and I hope that we can change that.

15:27  

Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

No one has anything to add, so I thank you very much for your evidence. We now move into private session.

12:11 Meeting continued in private until 12:33.  

Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

Let us start with Mr McCann, who manages to cope with that at the moment.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

I do not know whether that is practical, but we have noted the suggestion.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

Does anyone else have comments on the national register?



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

I wish it were different. We are considering this matter entirely because of the difficulties that many organisations and people in general are having to suffer on a daily basis because of metal thefts. Ones that the committee has highlighted involve rail infrastructure, drains and memorial statues. That has nothing to do with HMRC; it is about the inconvenience that is being caused to people across the country.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

I point out that, at this time, the Parliament has no powers over HMRC.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

Let us hear from Mr Hetherington, then, please.

11:45  

Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

It would be useful for the committee if you were to list those dealers for us—all the associated trades that deal in metal—so that we could look at the matter in some depth. It would be extremely useful if you could do that, whether via Mr Hetherington’s organisation or individually.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
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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 Kevin Stewart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11890: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11889: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11811: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Local Government and Regeneration Committee, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11725: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11724: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11694: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11669: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11668: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11662: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11660: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Kevin Stewart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23684: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23685: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23688: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23687: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23686: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23689: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23602: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23601: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02471: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03755: Kevin Stewart, Aberdeen Central, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

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