The latest Department for Work and Pensions figures for February 2017 show that more than 3,600 households and 11,000 children in Scotland are currently affected by the new cap. Two thirds of those affected are lone parents, and although the average weekly cut is £59, some households are having to cope with losing £200 each week. The fact that that is increasing hardship and difficulty for already vulnerable households and children is unacceptable, and the UK Government should reverse the policy.
I welcome the minister’s comments and am glad that she is joining me in calling on the UK Government to reverse the cuts—especially given the damaging impact that they are having on communities, including in my constituency and particularly in north Edinburgh, where people and families with children are facing increased hardship and, in some cases, homelessness as a result of problems to do with the benefit cap and other UK Government welfare reforms. What can we do together to put pressure on the UK Government to reverse the cuts?
As members know from our statements in Parliament, the benefit cap is an issue that we have directly addressed with the current UK Government and will directly address with the incoming UK Government, with respect to the cap’s effect and impact on individuals, because the UK Government intends to apply it to devolved benefits. That is something that we strongly believe undercuts the agreement in the Smith commission and fiscal framework.
I am happy to advise Ben Macpherson that we consistently press the UK Government to reverse policies that operate by assessing need and then choosing not to meet it—which is ironic, in a social security system.
This morning, I have come from a helpful discussion with East Lothian Council on the impact of full roll-out of universal credit on the authority and its residents. I am pleased that we are looking to work directly with our newly elected local authorities and with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, as it forms under the new administrations, so that collectively we increase pressure from Scotland on the UK Government to reverse all the changes that it has introduced, and which evidence shows have a direct impact on vulnerable families and children in particular and, of course, on women.