A short email from Pat’s Petition was sent to Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, requesting a meeting with him. Unfortunately this was not going to be possible but an alternative was offered – to meet with David Griffiths who sits on the Scrutiny Group of the Welfare Reform Committee – would I be interested?
The answer from me was an emphatic YES.
Arrangements were made with the help of Holyrood staff and I asked Rosemary O’Neill to come up from England to put that side forward. The meeting was excellent and included Isabell Donnelly from our government department, also involved with Welfare Reform.
Scotland is devolved in many services. NHS, social works, education, police, prisons and much more but not the Welfare system. That is governed by Westminster – 500 miles away in a different country.
This is causing a huge problem for Scotland as politicians and those affected find the proposals, now law, quite unacceptable in its present form. Many people live in remote villages – not forgetting dozens of islands. How can a home carer provide a 15-minute ‘drop in’ when the round trip takes almost 2 hours? How can you remove DLA and yet still expect a disabled person to make a long and difficult journey to a hospital appointment?
One thing you quickly learn about Scotland is – how approachable, not only MSP’s are but also local authorities, the voluntary groups and the charities. They want to talk with us and they DO listen. Something Westminster would be well advised to learn from.
The 4 of us spent several hours talking, listening, and commenting, with the occasional humour. There were no heated discussions – no fighting for one cause – no one person monopolising the meeting. We were all in complete agreement how devastating these Welfare cuts were and how they are destroying lives.
It was clear that in spite of a determination to help disabled people, carers and their families – money – or lack of it, was causing the biggest headaches. Yes the government can do more to prevent the extreme hardships which are starting already, but other services would have to be cut.
Do you know? There are no 1 bedroom social houses or flats in Scotland. Well yes there are but they are shelter for elderly only. Until recently rented social housing was the norm here and very few people bought their own places. When the social housing was being built, it was decided 2 bedrooms plus would be far more useful. So how pray, Mr Duncan Smith, are those with 2 bedrooms and no children going to down size? Oh I see. They aren’t. You are going to force a ‘stealth’ tax on them. Clever but this is something that has the potential to be challenged.
All too soon we had to end the meeting much as we could have talked for hours. (We had another appointment to keep with Professor Paul Spicker. He is Chairman of Public Policy at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. A man with a wealth of knowledge who has written widely on Public and Social Policy.)
David learned a lot from Rosemary about social care/carers in England and how much they will lose from the knock on effect by slashing services. I know she learned much about our ways too. He already knew about me!
He promised to forward some contacts to me and true to his word – they arrived home before me! Some wanted articles, others want to meet up. All hugely positive. He said he enjoyed meeting us!
Thank you David and Isabell – it was mutual.
Please read a message from David here