Scottish National Party spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has accused Chancellor George Osborne of pandering to poverty myths and reinforcing negative stereotypes of those on benefits, in the week the UK Government’s Welfare Reform has been introduced.
In the Chancellor’s speech this week and in further comments, Mr Osborne:
·         reinforced the idea that those on benefits have an ‘easy life’, with references to claimants’ lack of incentive to get a job. Yet research shows the experience of living on a low income is one of constant struggle to manage limited resources, with small events having serious consequences. Statistics show that the poorest spend their money carefully, limiting themselves to the essentials.
·         said that in 2010 alone, payments to working age families cost £90 billion, and that was ‘one reason why we’ve got such a big deficit.’ However the proportion of our tax bills spent on welfare has remained stable for the last 20 years.
·         complained that people on disability benefits don’t get counted as unemployed, however the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits because of sickness or disability has steadily decreased since the mid-1990s,  whilst the severity of the claimants’ conditions have in turn increased.
·         refers to welfare dependency as being entrenched from one generation to the next, however evidence suggests that in less than 0.1% of the 20 million working age households in the UK there are 2 generations that have never had a permanent job. The numbers of such families, if any exist, are so small that no survey has yet been able to detect the much cited three generations of worklessness.
 Dr Whiteford said:
“George Osborne’s comments show just how out of touch with the real world he is. The Chancellor’s speech hid the complexity of the true nature of poverty in the UK – which his Tory austerity agenda is increasing – and reinforces negative, harmful stereotypes. And this is happening at the same time as people at the top are gaining from an income tax cut.
“Mr Osborne’s speech was full of ill-informed assumptions, not based on facts or research. Meanwhile our poorest and most disadvantaged citizens are bearing the brunt of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition’s austerity measures.
“We need a welfare system that reflects Scotland’s values, helps working families and protects the most disadvantaged people – and a fairer welfare system for Scotland can only be achieved with a Yes vote in September 2014. A clear majority of people in Scotland already want decisions on taxation, benefits and pensions to be taken by Holyrood rather than Westminster, where our MPs have little ability to prevent such damaging measures as the iniquitous Bedroom Tax.”