Financial Health Checks Initiative

The Financial Health Check is delivered by the Citizens Advice Network in Scotland and backed by the Scottish Government. It aims to motivate low income families to seek financial advice to maximise their income by ensuring that they are not paying more for essential goods and services than they need to and that they are getting all the benefits, grants and exemptions (council tax, energy) to which they are entitled. It also allows them to access support and impartial advice where they need to e.g. debt advice.

The new service launched in November and has already helped hundreds of Scots maximise their income. Overall, there are half a million cases of Scots not claiming all the support they are entitled to. But, one call to the free phoneline on 0800 085 7145 is all it takes for families to find out what they are eligible for. Clients can also access the service through any of our bureau across Scotland.

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Scrap Two Child Cap & Rape Clause

This latest Tory U-turn on welfare support does not go anywhere near far enough. The two child cap and rape clause is still set to push hundreds of thousands of children into poverty and must be scrapped.

This disgraceful UK Government policy has been condemned by the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and a multitude of charities and welfare advice professionals. It is discriminatory at its core, and hits women and BAME families hardest – which the DWP is well aware of.  I congratulate the efforts of my colleague, Alison Thewliss MP, in continuing to hold the UK Government to account over this policy.

If the Tories are not willing to scrap this hated policy for everyone then they should devolve the powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can build a truly fair and equal social security system that meets Scotland’s needs and values.

 

FOBTs & Finance Bill

As the Finance Bill faces its final reading in the Commons, the SNP is more determined than ever to keep the pressure on the Tories to deliver on their promises on the £2 stake for FOBTs. Any backtracking on these promises would renege on the tireless efforts of campaigners and reverse real progress on this issue.

The next stage in the campaign is to consider the health impact of gambling addiction and it would be totally unacceptable for the tories to use use parliamentary tricks to avoid a public health review on the Bill’s gambling provisions.

The Tory Budget has failed to deliver any positive news for Scotland and the SNP will not stand by whilst the UK government prepare to embark on a Brexit path – which Scotland did not vote for – that will cause havoc to Scotland’s economy.

Whether it’s ensuring that Ministers deliver on Fixed Odds betting Terminals or opposing a No Deal Brexit, the SNP are leading opposition to Theresa May’s disunited Tory government.

Universal Credit

The House of Commons was due to vote on proposals to move a further three million claimants onto the universal credit by summer 2019, but this will now be postponed with the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd seeking approval to move just 10,000 onto the new system.

The House of Commons Library highlights that 4,810 households in Inverclyde claim UC and there are still 7,250 on legacy benefits with many of these still to transfer over.

A United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty recently opened a scathing attack on universal credit warning that the system was “mean spirited and often callous”.

Here in Inverclyde, we’ve had full service Universal Credit for over two years and my constituency office continues to receive stories from constituents who are suffering at the hands of policy decisions by this UK Government

The roll-out has already seen more people pushed into poverty, debt and destitution – forcing families to rely on food banks and emergency aid just to get by.

Any movement to mitigate the worst of the problems that the botched rollout of Universal Credit has caused is welcome, but fundamental reform is urgently needed for those who have already been affected.

https://ronniecowan.com/2018/12/14/universal-credit-public-petition

HMRC – Christmas phone and online scamming

HMRC recommends that if you cannot verify the identity of a caller, do not speak to them. You can check GOV.UK for information on genuine HMRC contact and on how to avoid and report internet scams.

I would encourage Inverclyde residents to be aware of potential fraudsters who try to spoof legitimate HMRC phone numbers.

If you notice anything suspicious then please email phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and send suspicious texts to 60599

Universal Credit public petition

Inverclyde has had full service Universal Credit for over 2 years now while at the same time it has lost one of its jobcentres in Port Glasgow.  The House of Commons Library highlights that 4,810 households in Inverclyde currently claim Universal Credit and there are still 7,250 on legacy benefits.

My constituency office has dealt with hundreds of welfare cases and the vast majority of these are in-relation to Universal Credit.  Some of the stories that constituents have told me regarding their Universal Credit claim are scandalous and highlight the many flaws in the current system which need addressing quickly.  For example, the length in delay of receiving your first payment, or the issue of receiving your wages 4 weekly which means at least once a year you receive no Universal Credit payment as the system thinks you’ve had two wages in a month.

The Trussell Trust tell me that in Inverclyde between 1st April 2018 and 30th September 2018 in Inverclyde, 3,013 three-day emergency food supplies were given to local people in crisis.  Meanwhile welfare spending on poor people dropped by 25% during the decade of austerity, cuts to benefits that disabled people receive were significant.

It’s time the UK Government listened to the concerns being raised by constituents, charities and local organisations who are saying the current Universal Credit provision is not fit for purpose and it needs fixed. 

Therefore, I hope people in Inverclyde will sign the public petition, which is available in my constituency office, as this will allow me to take it to Westminster and demonstrate the strength of feeling against the UK Government policy.

 

Ofcom’s “Boost Your Broadband” campaign

Superfast broadband is available to more than nine in ten premises in the UK, but Ofcom want to help more people take up faster services. 

The campaign can help find out if they could:           

•           upgrade to a faster service with their current provider;

•           get a better deal for their current package;

•           switch to a new deal with a different provider; or

•           stick with their current deal. 

A dedicated website (www.BoostYourBroadband.com) will offer consumers tools including an availability checker for broadband services, information on what they need to ask their provider, and a jargon buster.

 

Scot Govt Funding for Active Travel

During the Scottish Government’s Draft spending and tax plans for 2019-20, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay MSP announced £80m for Active Travel

I’m delighted to learn the Scottish Government is continuing its investment in active travel and this announcement of £80m is to be welcomed.

Having recently met with both Community Tracks and Sustrans Scotland I know work is being undertaken to improve cycling links through Inverclyde.  This is something I very much support and will be promoting both locally and at Westminster in my role on the Transport Select Committee, through our Active Travel inquiry.

I would encourage more people to take up, or start again, cycling as a leisure activity and also as a way of staying healthy.  Inverclyde has some beautiful scenery to offer and this funding announcement should hopefully allow further investment in our cycling routes.

 

 

PACAC – Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has published an interim report today (The Status and Effect of Confidence Motions and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011) which confirms the principle that the government is dependent on maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons and any vote of no confidence could topple the government.

The SNP will wholeheartedly support any vote of no confidence in the government, especially in light of the cowardly move to pull the Withdrawal Agreement vote to prevent the government facing a humiliating defeat in the Commons.

The Prime Minister herself admitted that the vote would have been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs – not just on the opposition benches, but on the Tory backbenchers as well and putting narrow party political interest before constituents across the UK is a pathetic move by the Prime Minister which she must not be forgiven for.

It is now clearer than ever before that the UK government cannot command the confidence of the House of Commons. Theresa May and her government must now be held to account for their unforgivable dereliction of their responsibility.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubadm/1813/181302.htm