Faith leaders in Scotland have joined together to call for social security reforms to help tackle poverty.
In a joint statement, they urged the UK and Scottish governments to take action ‘that would reflect the care, compassion and support shown by people across the country into changes that would make a real difference to families and individuals living in the grip of poverty’.
Signatories include the Roman Catholic Bishop of Galloway, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Chief Imam of Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Moderator-Elect of the National Synod of Scotland of the United Reformed Church, Sensei at the Buddhist community Cloud Water Zen Centre, Chair of the Methodist Church in Scotland and the representative of Sikhs in Scotland on the Scottish Religious Leaders Forum also endorsed the statement.
They want the UK Government to scrap the benefit cap and two-child limit to boost the incomes of families ‘most in need’.
They also call for the increase in the basic allowance for Universal Credit to be retained.
The Scottish Government should increase the Carers Allowance Supplement, they said, in response to the additional financial pressures on carers during coronavirus.
In June, the Scottish Government effectively doubled its routine supplement to the Carer’s Allowance through an additional coronavirus top-up of £230.10.
The statement continues: ‘By boosting the incomes of people struggling to stay afloat, our governments can relieve the pressure and stress that so many are now experiencing.
‘We encourage those in power to listen to people who are affected by poverty now and take the steps we need to begin to redesign our social security to provide the support that everyone one needs.’
Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said: “This intervention from Scotland’s faith leaders is a welcome contribution to the mounting calls on both the UK and Scottish Governments to fix our social security system so it acts as a lifeline to help people stay afloat.”
He said coronavirus has “shown us how much we want to look after each other” but also highlighted “gaps” in the social security system.
He added: “Even before the Covid-19 crisis, one in five people in Scotland were living in poverty. Without urgent action, this can only be expected to get worse.”
Scottish Labour has backed the call for a top up to the twice-yearly Carer’s Allowance Supplement payment in December.
Party leader Richard Leonard said: “Carers have made huge sacrifices, and taken on many additional responsibilities, during the public health crisis.
“We welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to double the Carer’s Allowance Supplement in the spring.
“But with the second spike in Covid-19 transmissions, caring responsibilities are likely to be intensifying once again. In addition, the spiralling economic crisis is likely to push even more carers into poverty.”
A DWP spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has significant welfare powers, including the ability to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits.
“Universal Credit is providing a vital safety net to those affected by the pandemic and we have injected more than £9.3 billion into the welfare system to help those in most need.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise that this is a difficult time and that many people, including carers, are facing the economic impacts of coronavirus.
“In response we have paid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance a further supplement this year, which is in excess of what is available in the rest of the UK.
“As a result, eligible carers will get additional payments of up to £690 over this year. We also offer the Young Carer Grant, a yearly payment of £300 for young people aged 16 to 18 who care for someone 16 hours or more each week.”
Picture: A young woman stares out of the window after counting coins. (bellapresentations).