Mike Holmes from Enable Scotland told the
Welfare Reform Committee
his members were facing a "perfect storm" as a result of the UK
Welfare Reform Act
Mr Holmes was giving evidence to MSPs on the the Scottish government's
Welfare Reform (Further Provision)(Scotland) Bill
on 24 April 2012.
The bill is intended to ensure that devolved policies such as the provision of free school meals and blue badge parking will continue to operate in Scotland after changes are made to the UK benefit system.
As the Scottish Parliament voted against a Westminster legislative consent motion, the Scottish government is required to bring forward legislation to maintain devolved policies such as free school meals and concessionary travel.
The bill aims to ensure that the legislative framework which supports the provision of these 'passported benefits' will not be adversely affected by the Westminster Government's changes.
Mr Holmes said "I can't recall a time in 20 years where our members and people with learning disabilities and their carers across Scotland have, if you like, faced a perfect storm of changes to services, tightening eligibility criteria, fewer college places, a much harder jobs market and the level of employment of people with disabilities is already shockingly low, coupled with Welfare reform that's coming down the track at them".
Carolyn Roberts from the Scottish Association for Mental Health said the reforms had led to a "great deal of fear and concern over what is about to happen and in many cases what is already happening".
Tanith Muller from Parkinson's UK told the committee there had been a "massive increase" in the workload of her organisation's information support workers and that with cuts in funding to other advocacy and advice services they were struggling to find referrals and support for their members.
Ms Muller said the reforms would result in a big increase in the workload for health and care services and in the levels of anxiety those on benefits face.
MSPs also quizzed Hanna McCulloch from the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform; David Griffiths from ECAS (voluntary organisation helping physically disabled people); Ken Reid from the Royal National Institute of Blind People; and Gordon Macrae from Shelter Scotland.
Many of the witnesses backed a call for affirmative procedures in relation to the forthcoming regulations required after the bill to ensure the parliament would be able to better scrutinise the measures to mitigate the regulations from Westminster.