West Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and I was delighted to visit the CAB offices in Dumbarton to thank the staff and volunteers for their invaluable service to our communities.
Since first being elected I’ve worked closely with West Dunbartonshire’s local advice services because I’ve seen first-hand the difference they can make for people with nowhere else to turn.
When I visited CAB a few months ago the most pressing issue was the UK government’s decision to push ahead with the unnecessary removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. The Tories taking away more than £1,000 per year from already struggling families would be callous even in the best of times, but to do so now as people face soaring food, energy and fuel costs is cruel beyond belief.
I’ve lost count of the number of Tory MPs at Westminster I’ve seen make disparaging remarks about families who rely on social security. They justify these cuts claiming it’s about getting people into work, but the reality is that more than a third of those on Universal Credit are already in employment. Many cannot work extra hours due to ill health, caring responsibilities, or disabilities. The UK’s in-work poverty rate is already at the highest it’s been for two decades, but Boris Johnson’s government doesn’t seem to care.
By contrast, the SNP Scottish Government has made it a national mission to tackle child poverty in our communities. Last week the First Minister announced that the new Scottish Child Payment is set to be doubled; directly benefiting thousands of families here in West Dunbartonshire and more than 100,000 children across Scotland.
This announcement by the First Minister has been widely welcomed by charities and anti-poverty campaigners. The Child Poverty Action Group described it as lifeline for families and children across Scotland. The Scottish Child Payment is the most ambitious anti-poverty measure anywhere in the UK, and it will make a huge difference to many families experiencing financial hardship.
Just think what more we could do in Scotland if we had the powers of a normal independent country. Unfortunately, for now, we remain tied to Westminster and face a cost-of-living crisis made worse by Brexit and a Tory government we didn’t vote for.
All politics aside though, with many facing a tough winter it’s important for anyone struggling to know that help is always available. As your MP I work in conjunction with CAB and other local advice services and can help with referrals to food charities, as well as check entitlements to financial support including the new Scottish Child Payment. Please be assured you can reach out in confidence if you need advice or support.
This article was published in the Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter on 7 December 2021.