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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-20556: Mark Griffin (Central Scotland)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 12 December 2018

To ask the Scottish Government, further to comments made by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work in The Times on 8 December 2018, when it requested access to DWP data for the purposes of mitigating the two-child benefit cap.

Answered by: Shirley-Anne Somerville 8 January 2019

The Scottish Government has written on numerous occasions to the UK Government requesting that the two child limit be scrapped and have made clear our total opposition to the policy. This policy is part of Universal Credit which is a fully reserved benefit the Scottish Government has have no control over and cannot change.

By 2020-21 UK government cuts are expected to take around £3.7 billion out of the Scottish welfare system. It is not our policy to mitigate all of these UK Government welfare cuts, which are the equivalent of three times the Police Scotland budget. Pressure should be maintained on the UK Government to make changes to the policy and we will continue to call for such changes.

We are already investing over £125m in 2018-19 to mitigate the effects of UK Government welfare cuts and to protect people on low incomes - £20 million more than last year. The fact the Scottish Government has to take such action was described by the United Nation Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights as “outrageous”.

Comments made by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work referred to the legitimate assumption that any policies to directly top-up reserved benefits would need the agreement and cooperation of the DWP. Mr Mackay also said that “the best way to resolve it is to address the problem at source”.

The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan sets out the many actions we are taking to increase family incomes and reduce living costs. That includes a commitment to work towards introducing a new income supplement, to provide additional financial support for low income families.