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Welfare reforms are an attack on most vulnerable in society

I NOTE with interest the report on plans to force people to apply for benefits online ("Warning over online benefit claims move", The Herald, February 15).

The article demonstrates the continued assault on the vulnerable in our society, a society that is becoming more and more elite and less inclusive.

The Minister responsible at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Ian Duncan Smith, has been ruthless in his welfare reforms as he leads the Government down a path of exclusiveness in our society. We have seen the abolition of incapacity benefit, the reduction in child benefits, the introduction of the so-called bedroom tax and we are now going fully electronic to claim benefits.

This move has not been thought through and begs a few pertinent questions: what about older people who have worked all their days (paying taxes) in manual labour with no need to access a computer but find themselves in the unfortunate position of unemployment? Or those who are in hospital and need to get benefits in place for their release (is the NHS expected to supply the means?). Then we have approximately 8.5 million who have never used a computer or the internet, who will be assisting with this huge gap?

The Coalition Government tells us we should go to our local library for computer access and training. Sounds good, but in practice this could be impossible for some who are housebound, have cash-flow issues or due to cuts are losing their local library.

Perhaps we are all missing something and David Cameron's big society will come to claimants' rescue, but I feel it will be our hard-pressed charities, local authority benefit advisers and Citizen Advice Bureaux who will have to fill the gap.

In 2012, evidence was presented to the House of Commons work and pensions committee from 70 organisations that will be directly involved in the implementation of the welfare reforms, evidence which should have pressed alarm bells. Then you had the most unexpected of institutions, The House of Lords, inflicting defeats on the Coalition Government's welfare reforms. Yet this Coalition Government ignores all concerns, pressing on the road to nowhere for so many.

Catriona C Clark,

52 Hawthorn Drive,

Banknock,

Falkirk.

I AGREE with Alastair Cameron from Scottish Churches Housing Action that the impending changes to housing benefit will cause great difficulty and distress for many of our most vulnerable citizens (Letters, February 15).

On the face of it, the bedroom tax is reasonable: why should the state and the taxpayer pay housing benefit to cover spare, unoccupied bedrooms?

When you actually look at the real world and see the effect of the new rules you quickly realise how iniquitous they are. You reported the case of Frances Connor, who worked all her life until she had the misfortune to contract cancer ("Cancer sufferer fears benefit cuts", February 14). Her spare bedroom is frequently occupied by her son when she needs care. In any event, she is well established in her local community, with all that entails.

Are people like Mrs Connor to be turfed out of their homes when the new rules come into effect? If they are, where are they to go? There's a very limited supply of one-bedroom rented accommodation available, most of it in the private sector and at higher rents than the public sector.

The changes are entirely in keeping with the Tory party's ethos, but it is disappointing once again to see their LibDem partners in the Coalition acting as cheerleaders for this wicked policy.

Nick Clegg claims it will free up under-used resources in social housing and help families stuck on long waiting lists. At best this is disingenuous. If the Government is serious about tackling the chronic shortage of decent social housing, there is an easy solution: build more houses.

In the 1950s it was a Tory administration that built 300,000 houses in a year and, by the standards of the day, they were good houses. A similar programme now would not only provide a decent home for families, it would improve health, alleviate fuel poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost the economy. As an investment, it's a no-brainer.

It is easy for politicians in the comfort of Westminster to issue decrees. Perhaps if they got out more, they would realise the changes they make can have very serious consequences for decent people who have played by the rules throughout their working lives.

Yes, the economy is in a mess and savings have to be made, but people like Mrs Connor shouldn't be paying the price for the immoral activities of the banking executives who got us into it.

Doug Maughan,

52 Menteith View,

Dunblane.

We are an organisation of disabled people and the so-called bedroom tax has a hugely disproportionate impact on our section of Scottish society.

Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre spoke at our annual general meeting last week and said the bedroom tax should more rightfully be called the disability tax, because the DWP in its own equality impact assessment predicted that two-thirds of the households affected would contain a disabled person. This estimate has been confirmed to us again this week by the Scottish Government.

If one considers that disabled people only account for 20% of the entire Scottish population and a high proportion of these are over retirement age (and thus not affected by the bedroom tax) one can begin to understand just how unfair this measure is.

The DWP and the Government know this, and we feel this is a calculated attack on groups more likely to be socially isolated and less able to fight back. We hope this was a miscalculation on their part and Scottish society will instead rally round disabled people to oppose this iniquitous policy and its terrible impacts of debt, depression, homelessness and ill health.

Bill Scott,

Manager, Inclusion Scotland,

14 Ashley Place, Edinburgh.

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