Anne McTaggart MSP

Anne McTaggart MSP – “Scottish Parliament Must Use Powers to Combat Welfare Challenges”

Thursday december speech

Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart yesterday (Thursday 18th December) called on the Scottish Government to use all the powers available to them to help deal with welfare challenges in a debate on welfare reform and the Smith Commission at the Scottish Parliament.

Ms McTaggart stated that welfare, and the challenges it presents, is an extremely important issue for communities across Scotland. She spoke of her disgust that starving families are turning to food banks to survive, and of her belief that the welfare reform proposals that have been put forward by the Smith Commission will allow the Scottish Government to support those that need help the most. She also argues that more needs to be done at a local level to help the most vulnerable.

Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said “I welcome in principle the efforts that the Scottish Government’s Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill seeks to make to alleviate some of the welfare challenges. However, t is apparent to me that local authorities, charities and third sector groups, which are embedded in their communities, can make better decisions about getting people back into work and breaking the dependency cycle than someone sitting either here in Edinburgh or in Westminster.

“It also strikes me that, when new proposals are drafted, one group that is not consulted enough on them is the most vulnerable. Given that they unfortunately have to rely on the system, surely they have a role in ensuring that it is as stress free and as simple as possible. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises access to food as part of the right to an adequate standard of living, but the committee’s report found that, since 2012, the use of food banks has increased by 400 per cent.”

“It is not the job of the Scottish Parliament simply to acknowledge welfare challenges; it would be incredibly easy just to note such concerns and say that we have done our duty. However, I am sure that all members across the chamber will agree that that is simply not enough. If we are not here to challenge, we are wasting our time; if we are not here to listen, we are not doing our job; and if we are not here to change, we have lost all hope.”

You can read Ms McTaggart’s full speech here.

You can watch Ms McTaggart’s speech here.


Anne McTaggart MSP

Anne McTaggart MSP Urges Scottish Government to Explain Welfare Fund Underspend

Welfare Funds Speech

Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart has urged the Scottish Government to explain why the Scottish welfare fund was so underspent.

Ms McTaggart made her call during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday December 16th. She voiced her broad support for the general principles of the Bill but also raised some reservations.

In 2013 the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) was underspent by 12 per cent; it handed out grants totalling £29 million in 2013-14, which amounted to only 88 per cent of the £33 million that was available. Scottish Government figures show that more than 82,000 crisis grants were paid out to 56,000 households, while 36,000 community care grants were awarded to 33,000 applicants.

Ms McTaggart, in agreement with a report published by Heriot-Watt University, spoke about the need for greater awareness of the fund through information materials provided to local government departments, third sector agencies and Jobcentre Plus. She also stressed the need for guidance to be issued to staff on awarding discretionary grants in order to ensure that people are treated equally across the country.

Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said “The Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill is vital to many of my constituents in Glasgow. Although I am broadly in agreement with the aims of the bill, in order to ensure that the SWF operates properly in the coming years, the Scottish Government must clarify why there has been a repeated underspend. It should also address the concerns that I have expressed, in order that the bill fulfil its principal aim, which is to provide through crisis grants a safety net for people on low incomes during a disaster or emergency.”

You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here.


Anne McTaggart MSP

Glasgow MSP Calls for Action to Be Taken On Bellgrove Hotel

Bellgrove

Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart has slammed the conditions in a city hostel and called for action to be taken to end the cycle of abhorrent behaviour by its owners.

Ms McTaggart was speaking in John Mason’s members’ business debate on Tuesday December 16th on the Bellgrove Hotel in Glasgow’s East End which usually houses around 140 men, often from vulnerable backgrounds. This follows a lengthy Care Inspectorate investigation which concluded that the Inspectorate had no remit over the hostel. In addition, Glasgow City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee decided in October to award an HMO licence to the hostel for only one year rather than the three years applied for by the owner, Careside Hotels Limited. Ms McTaggart reiterated the urgent need for both the necessary legislation and guidance to be reviewed to ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable residents.

Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said “We have all become familiar with the wretched conditions that residents experience at the Bellgrove. It is a place that epitomises deprivation and squalor. In every sense, it is a modern-day poorhouse.

Given the simple reality that the Bellgrove represents a great risk to many of the most vulnerable people in Glasgow, it is time for the Scottish Government to take action. It is absolutely necessary to create new regulations for establishments such as the Bellgrove hotel so that they cannot continue to sneak by and pose a risk to the residents who stay there.

Given that we as a country pride ourselves on looking out for all our citizens and that we seek to provide a good standard of living for everyone, it is a shame that action has not yet been taken. It is time for us all to do the right thing and do everything in our power to put an end to this cycle of abhorrent behaviour on the part of the proprietors of the Bellgrove hotel and stop pushing the problem aside. We all know that what is happening is wrong. Now let us do something about it.”

You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here.

 


John Robertson MP

Local MP speaks out against the Bedroom Tax

John Robertson has spoken out against the damaging effects of the Bedroom Tax, which came into force in 2013.

You can see his speech here:

This is a tax, by any other name.

It is a horrendous and pernicious tax, which targets some of the most vulnerable people living in our communities. It attacks the elderly, it attacks the disabled, it attacks families of all sizes, and above all else it attacks those who are already struggling to get by, day after day.

I am incredibly saddened to say that my city of Glasgow is one of the worst City’s affected throughout the whole of the UK.

Currently, 12,079 people have had a reduction applied. And in my constituency alone, more than 60% of people have lost more than £10 a week. For people who don’t have much to live on in the first place, the bedroom tax has a crippling effect.

More than half of the people affected in Glasgow are over 50, and more than 40% are not in work.

But, Madame Deputy Speaker, it’s too easy for us to forget the people that lie behind the statistics. It’s too easy to forget the Grandparents and the single parents that are hurt by these numbers.

One constituent of mine, Christina, wrote to me and explained her situation. A self-employed 60 year old who has lived in her house for 19 years with her son, who recently had moved out. She just gets by in life, but gives all the time she can to voluntary work in her community, and suffers from mental health issues.
She feels safe in her home, and in her community.

She’s not opposed to downsizing, and she understands that another family may need the two bedrooms more than she, but she cannot afford to move.

She can’t afford to buy the new white goods she’ll need in a new home, she can’t afford to furnish and decorate a new home and she can’t afford a removal van to take her possessions with her.

Most importantly, she can’t afford the £41 a month she’ll need to make up the difference. For people like Christina, it literally is a choice between rent and food.

The shocking thing, Madame Deputy Speaker?

She’s not alone.

She joins thousands of people across the city. Just like another constituent of mine, John.

John is a disabled man who lives on his own. He has two teenage kids at school. He wants to keep in touch with his family, he wants them to be a part of his life, and he wants to be a part of theirs too.

He keeps a bedroom ready for them, so they have the freedom to come and visit, at weekends, stop in on a week day – to just come and go as they please. He desperately wants to keep his family together.

Moving to a one bedroom house would end that freedom for him and his children. I can’t imagine the hurt and anger that I would feel, as a father of three, if I had to tell my children or my grandchildren what John now has to tell his kids; that they weren’t able to come and stay if they wanted to, or needed to, because of this Tory government.

This is the tip of the iceberg of suffering that those affected by the bedroom tax have to go through.

People like John and Christina are told that they should just move to a one-bedroom flat, as though it’s easy. The truth of the matter is that it isn’t easy. The number of people who have to make up the 14% reduction far outweighs the number of single bedroom properties. People are locked into the homes they are in at the moment.

And why should people be punished for having grown up children who live at University during term time, and return for the summer? Why should disabled people suffer because they require vast amounts of equipment to survive?

But most of all, why should people – hardworking people, who volunteer in their communities, who have provided for their family, but who struggle to get by day, after day, after day – be forced by this Tory Government to make the choice between paying their rent, paying for their electricity or putting food on the table?

That is why, Madam Deputy Speaker, I call this an evil tax on those that Government should stand up for and defend. That’s why I am so proud to vote to axe this tax today.