Return to soup kitchens?

SUCH is the level of concern among a wide range of organisations and bodies across the Borders about the possible impact of the Government’s Welfare Reform Act, which received Royal Assent on March 8, that the possibility of soup kitchens having to be opened has been seriously discussed.

The Borders Advocacy, Advice and Support Forum is one of a number of organisations concerned about the effects of the Welfare Reform Act on individuals and families, particularly the most vulnerable, across the Scottish Borders, and they predict it will lead to an increase in demand for advice, support and advocacy services in the region.

Chair of the Forum, Kathleen Travers, said: “Our members are extremely worried about the changes in welfare reform and the effects they will have on the most vulnerable people in our region, such as those with physical and learning disabilities, carers, and people with mental health issues. We have major concerns about the ability of existing advocacy, information, advice and support services to meet the increased demand for help as the reforms are rolled out.

“There are only a few specialist services in the Borders, and they are already stretched. Some are already seeing an increase in referrals and the rise in demand is bound to outstrip their capabilities to help people who most need them.

“The Welfare Reform Act has wide reaching ramifications for the people of the Scottish Borders and the services they use, and the BAASF feels it is important to draw attention to these issues.”

At the beginning of this week The Campaign for a Fair Society, a coalition of more than 70 charities, gave evidence at the Human Rights Council of the UN that the United Kingdom Government is in breach of its human rights obligations to disabled people and provided evidence that disabled people are being deprived of access to justice to appeal against cuts to their benefits.

Norma Curran, of Values Into Action Scotland added: “These welfare reforms are devastating people’s lives. It’s not acceptable to challenge the human rights of people on the grounds of race, sex, language, or religion so why does the UK Government think that it is acceptable to breach the human rights of disabled people?”

The Act is the biggest change to the welfare system for over 60 years and the Government believe that the wide range of reforms included will make the benefits and tax credits systems fairer and simpler; providing incentives to get people into work while protecting the most vulnerable people.