Page last updated at 23:49 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 00:49 UK

Call for 'fairer' welfare reform

People outside a job centre
Charities says the process of claiming benefits should be simplified

A coalition of 40 Scottish charities has called for a radically simplified and "fairer" welfare system.

The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) urged politicians to back five key reforms on benefits.

These include raising the basic level of support by £100 a week and urgently reviewing sickness benefit.

John Dickie, of the Child Poverty Action Group, said people currently had to jump through "impossible hoops to claim meagre benefits".

The SCoWR has outlined the reforms in its own manifesto published ahead of the forthcoming general election.

We will vigorously oppose any attempts to heap blame on the most vulnerable in our society
Peter Kelly
Poverty Alliance in Scotland

The document claimed many people were struggling to feed and clothe themselves on the current level of basic benefits, at about £65 a week.

It said this should be raised to at least £166.44 per week, a figure based on the amount members of the public thought was necessary to meet everyday needs.

The manifesto also suggested the welfare system was increasingly focused on blaming individuals for being out of work.

It called for an urgent review of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefit about 18 months ago.

The new rules mean even those with a terminal illness can now be required to attend often "pointless and humiliating" interviews, according to SCoWR.

Citizens Advice Scotland said it was clear that services were "in the firing line" of politicians looking to make spending cuts.

Chief executive Kaliani Lyle said: "This manifesto is all about challenging politicians of all parties to show us they too are committed to maintaining a fair welfare system for those sick, disabled and vulnerable people who depend on it."

Service cuts

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance in Scotland, said any sensible reforms to improve the system would be supported.

But he added: "We will vigorously oppose any attempts to cut services, limit opportunities or heap blame on the most vulnerable in our society.

"And that is what is happening too often under the current raft of reforms."

Oxfam, Action for Children Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Scottish Trade Union Congress are also members of the SCoWR.

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