THE Austerity Generation, a report just released by The Child Poverty Action Group and Institute for Public Policy Research, has revealed one million more children will be driven into poverty by the end of the decade as a result of the Conservative UK Government’s welfare reforms.
I am left wondering how many more children must face impoverishment for the Tories to reconsider their own policies.
One would assume a generation’s worth of harm at the hands of poor policy would be enough for ministers at Westminster to change course. But this latest report comes on top of lots of research that has spelled out the dire consequences of the Conservatives’ welfare policies.
In addition to driving huge numbers of children and vulnerable families into poverty, Tory cuts have also been linked by research to increasing numbers of homeless and people relying on food banks.
If that were not enough, the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has said the UK Government has acted with total neglect of disabled people and that welfare cuts have resulted in “grave and systematic violations” of their rights.
These statements have captured headlines before, but they are worth repeating, particularly in the context of a successful House of Commons vote last month, supported by SNP MPs, to pause the roll-out of the Universal Credit. There has been no indication the UK Government will adhere to the will of the Commons.
So if children suffering in poverty is not enough, if rises in homelessness and hunger are not enough, if undue harm to disabled people is not enough, if even the democratic will of the House of Commons is not enough, what will force Theresa May’s government to reverse such devastating policies?
These questions matter greatly to Scotland and the other devolved nations. Only 15 per cent of social security powers have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, so there is only so much we can do to lessen the harm the UK Government’s welfare policies will cause to Scots.
At the local level, councils are already spending or budgeting millions of pounds to combat the impacts of Universal Credit. The Scottish Government is spending £100 million every year to mitigate Conservative welfare cuts and protect lower-income families, children and disabled people.
What makes all this worse is that while the Tories preach fiscal prudence and balance their budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable throughout the UK, they are steering Scotland and the rest of the UK ever more towards the economic calamity of a hard Brexit.
In addition to the impacts to GDP, jobs, and the value of goods and services, we should all be concerned at how families already affected by Tory welfare cuts will get by once the damage of Brexit hits the UK with full force.
A government that ignores the plights of its own people and the will of its own parliament is not a government fit for making decisions around social security.
The Scottish Government is working to build a fairer system with the limited powers it has, but the UK Government’s inaction demonstrates that devolved administrations must be able to take greater action.
Seven years of Tory welfare reforms have produced enough poverty and suffering outlined by damming report after damming report.
If the UK Government cannot be compelled to act, if Scotland’s Tory MPs will not stand up against their own party, then Scotland should have control over all levers of social security to reverse the Tories’ toxic decisions.
The alternative, under Conservative rule, is being made to suffer under policies that the majority of Scotland’s MPs would never consider implementing. Policies that can neither be reversed nor fully mitigated, but which make the most vulnerable Scots worse off.
To accept such an “austerity generation” is not acceptable at all, and Scotland must no longer be bound completely by a UK Government steadfast in its inaction.