SCOTTISH Secretary Alistair Carmichael has admitted the UK government’s benefit sanctions “may well be” driving Scots to use food banks set up to help poverty-stricken families.
He was challenged at a Holyrood committee, with SNP and Labour MSPs claiming unemployed people had had their benefits unfairly cut.
The Lib Dem minister was asked about the impact of the coalition government’s welfare policies but was also unable to say what the level of child poverty would be by 2020. Figures from the Child Poverty Action Group suggest up to 100,000 children in Scotland will be pushed into poverty by then.
However, Mr Carmichael insisted “the honest answer is nobody really knows”.
He told MSPs: “In reference to the impact [on child poverty] of the Autumn Statement, I don’t have it to hand … the predictability of figures going forward are very difficult to forecast.”
At a bad-tempered meeting of Holyrood’s health and sport committee, SNP MSP Bob Doris said thousands of Scots had been forced to rely on food banks after having their benefits cut.
He described how one constituent had lost her benefits for missing a job centre appointment – because she was at a work placement organised by the job centre.
Over six months, 23,000 people in Scotland, including about 7,000 children, had to access food banks, an increase of 19,000, Mr Doris said.
Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm told Mr Carmichael “draconian sanctions” for benefit claimants had made poverty levels worse. He said: “Food banks encapsulate all that’s going wrong with the current poverty policies.”
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