Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Tweeddale and Lauderdale

Older People

I recently sponsored an event here for the Scottish Older People’s Assembly (SOPA) chaired by Diana Findley a Borders lady whom I have known for years. It was to highlight the benefits and requirements of the older community, of which I am one. It brings to mind the injustice of the 'reforms' of the women’s state pension age. This is to bring it in line with the state retirement age for men at 65. Nothing wrong with that but the Tory Government has gone about it in all the wrong way. Instead of a phased change or providing compensation for women born in the 1950s who are affected, they now find that their financial plans on the basis of an earlier retirement are useless facing financial difficulties in older age. That is what the WASPI women campaign is all about. Add to that breaking news from the Tories that low-income pensioners will be hit by Pension Credit rules losing access to other benefits such as Cold Weather Payments, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction. From May 15 this year mixed age couples, where one person is of state pension age and the other isn’t will no longer be able to claim Pension Credit, costing couples up to £140 per week, or £7,000 a year. Those other benefits flow from accessing Pension Credit. When did this news come out? Well it was sneaked out on the evening of another Brexit vote. But I’m telling you what the Tories want to hide.

Tory Track Record on Benefits

Pension Credit cuts follow a whole range of Tory attacks on the vulnerable. First of all Michelle Ballantyne MSP spokesperson for the Tories on welfare and benefits in the Scottish Parliament defended the two child cut off for Universal credit. A mother of six she made plain that you shouldn’t receive benefits for more than two children because, well, frankly you should have planned for unemployment, illness, marriage break-up or whatever has brought you to rely on benefits. In the end of course it is those other children who will suffer. A month on and she is telling the Parliament there is no such thing as the Bedroom Tax. To be fair she wanted it to be called the “Additional Room Supplement”. So much nicer to accept isn’t it? Of course it came down to the same thing. If you had an additional bedroom to your current needs-tough-you had to stump up. No matter that it was your family home and the family had moved on. To prevent more poverty or having to quit a much loved home, the Scottish Government has paid it for folk, to the tune currently of some £50 million. Every penny doing this raids the money for our health service, policing and schools. So when the Tories clamour for more money for this that and oatcake, remember what they are doing to decent folk and what and where, we try to mitigate their cruel policies and what that costs.