SNP accused of caring on the cheap
By Democrat reporter
The SNP government have been accused of breaking their promise to create a more generous social security system after voting with the Tories to block an increase in carer’s allowance.
Labour said the Government had short-changed carers by choosing the “cheapest possible option” for uprating the devolved benefit.
In an opposition debate, Labour urged the Government to index carers’ allowance to the more generous RPI measure of inflation.
MSP Mark Griffin said it should be a general principle that benefits rose by the higher measure of inflation, rather than the lower CPI rate brought in as part of Tory austerity.
CPI does not include mortgage payments, rents and council tax.
Holyrood researchers calculate that if carers’ allowance of £74.85 a week were raised by RPI in 2019/20 instead of CPI, its 82,000 claimant would get £33.36 more a year.
However the Scottish Government opposed the £3m proposal, and it was defeated by 93 votes to 28, with SNP and Conservative MSPs voting against Labour and the Greens.
Mr Griffin said: “This is about setting a precedent… for the cheapest possible option to uprate devolved social security benefits.
“The public sector pay increase will be 3%, [rail] fares have risen by 3% and council tax bills look set to rise by 4.8% so why are we giving carers just 2.4%?It’s a cut to save the Government money at the expense of people in need and responsible for pushing families to food banks as they struggle to makes ends meet.”
He said switching from RPI to CPI was one of “George Osborne’s first welfare cuts in 2010” and the SNP “seem entirely content with that”.
SNP Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, pictured above right, said: “There are historical areas where it [RPI] is in use but it is discouraged by the Office for National Statistics.”
She said that CPI “accurately reflects the cost of living”, and that the Government gave an extra £442 to over 77,000 carers last year in a Carer’s Allowance Supplement.
“The response to the Carer’s Allowance Supplement has been hugely positive and we know we are doing the right thing in making this increase,” she said.
“What I won’t do is agree to what is considered by experts as a poor measure of inflation.”
Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “There remains a vast mismatch between the value of care and the support carers receive.”
After the vote, Mr Griffin said a Tory switch to CPI had cost carers almost £1000 since 2011.
He said: “Instead of using Scotland’s new social security powers to make different choices from the Tories, the SNP have used them to endorse George Osborne’s policies.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government promised to deliver a social security system based on dignity and respect, but the reality hasn’t matched up to their rhetoric.
“They have failed to not only reverse the Tory’s pernicious change to CPI, they have now doubled down and defended Osborne’s con trick.”