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Summary

  1. The Social Security Committee with Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was suspended twice after gallery outcry over benefits.

Live Reporting

By Louise Wilson and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all from Holyrood Live

    Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey
    Image caption: Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey

    That's all from Holyrood Live on Monday 16 April 2018.

    The evidence session with Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was disrupted twice by shouting from the audience.

    Committee convener Clare Adamson had to suspend the Social Security Committee after SNP MSP Ben Macpherson called for an apology from the UK minister for the impact of welfare reforms.

    This call led to shouting about claimaints who committed suicide from the audience at the back the committee.

    Another brief suspension followed questioning on the so-called 'rape clause' from Green MSP Alison Johnstone, which also led to protests from another audience member.

  2. Another brief suspension as audience tensions spill over

    Ms Johnstone says it is "invasive and upsetting" if they are forced to put on the record events which they wish to remain private.

    There will be no delving questions asked, argues Ms Mcvey, adding: "It will be done in the most sensitive manner."

    This leads to more shouting from the audience and another brief suspension.

    Committee room

    The committee is briefly resumed to allow the convener to close the session.

  3. Background: How will the third-party model work?

    The government requires a form to be filled in by a third-party professional such as a GP
    Image caption: The government requires a form to be filled in by a third-party professional such as a GP

    The government requires a form to be filled in which is a declaration by the claimant and by the third-party professional that the terms of the exemption have been met.

    The HMRC website states:"You'll need to complete the non-consensual conception form with the help of an approved third-party professional". It says: "You don't have speak to, or give details about the circumstances of the conception to HMRC staff."

    The interpretation of this requirement has caused dispute, with Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson hitting out at the "misinformation" about the changes, saying women would not have to fill out a form saying they had been raped.

    She said: "They don't have to speak to the DWP, they don't have to declare that they have gone to the police, they don't have to have a medical intervention.

    "All they have to do is write their name and someone who is either a healthcare worker or a social worker does everything else for them."

    However, Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said she had "grave concerns that there was no suitable infrastructure or training to support the implementation of the policy".

    Video content

    Video caption: Ruth Davidson says rape clause 'misinformation is deeply damaging'
  4. Background: What is the 'rape clause'?

    Nicola Sturgeon and Alison Thewliss at a Scrap the Rape Clause event
    Image caption: Nicola Sturgeon and Alison Thewliss at a Scrap the Rape Clause event

    Child Tax Credit is one of the six benefits that are being phased out and replaced by Universal Credit.

    The two-child policy applies to the new "Child Element" of Universal Credit.

    The move was announced three years ago by the then Chancellor George Osborne.

    The UK government said it wanted to limit child tax credit to the first two children because it wanted "people on benefits to make the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work".

    Exemptions to the changes were announced for those;

    • adopting children
    • those involved in kinship care
    • and for multiple births.

    There was also an exception for a child born as a result of "non-consensual conception". This is the so-called 'rape clause'.

    It states that a woman can claim for a third or subsequent child if it was conceived "as a result of a sexual act which you didn't or couldn't consent to" or "at a time when you were in an abusive relationship, under ongoing control or coercion by the other parent of the child".

    A woman cannot claim this exemption if she lives with the other parent of the child.

    However, it states she can qualify whether or not there has been a court case or conviction of a criminal offence.

    The advice from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is that women affected should get support from women's aid, Victim Support or Rape Crisis.

    The DWP said it would operate a "third-party model" so that women did not have to describe the details to a member of its staff.

    Instead, women would talk to healthcare professionals, a social worker or an approved rape charity.

  5. Charities have refused to act as third party referrers says Green MSP

    Ms Johnstone

    Ms Johnstone says Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have refused to act as third pary referrers.

    Ms McVey says more support will be put in this area and more allowances will be made in this area.

    She says she hopes some of those organisations don't decide not to work with the government as it is trying to provide help and support to those that need it.

    Ms Johnstone asks if the minster is comfortable that women have to prove non-consensual conception in order to access a benefit.

    The minister say the government is providing extra support and says there will be no extra questions from the DWP and people will be supported.

    This will give people an opportunity to talk about something they may not have had before she insists.

  6. Background: Glasgow rally held against tax credit 'rape clause'

    Protesters against the so-called "rape clause" gathered in Glasgow
    Image caption: Protesters against the so-called "rape clause" gathered in Glasgow

    Last year a demonstration was held in Glasgow against the so-called "rape clause" in changes to tax credits.

    Reforms of the welfare system which came into force last April mean child tax credits are now capped at two children.

    A clause in the new rules means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted - but would have to provide evidence to do so.

    There has been a political row over the policy, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called "disgusting".

    Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has defended it, saying she wants the UK government to implement the exemption "in the most compassionate way possible".

    The Tory leader has faced criticism from a number of politicians, including Ms Sturgeon and Scottish Labour's Kezia Dugdale, over her stance on the matter.

  7. Green MSP raises two-child limit

    Ms McVey

    Green MSP Alison Johnstone says there has been "almost universal condemnation" at Holyrood of the two-child limit.

    Are there plans to publish statistics showing the number of people affected, she asks.

    Ms McVey says the decision was made to ensure a "fairness" between people who claiming and working, and the decisions they make.

    Benefits will be continuing for children but the two-child limit refers to tax credits, she clarifies.

  8. Background: Benefit changes 'could push 200,000 children into poverty

    Some families could be almost £3,000 a year worse off under the new rules
    Image caption: Some families could be almost £3,000 a year worse off under the new rules

    Changes to benefit rules, which came into force last year, could push 200,000 more children into poverty, campaigners said.

    Payments for some benefits are now limited to the first two children in a family.

    The Child Poverty Action Group and Institute for Public Policy Research said some families would be almost £3,000 a year worse off under the new rules.

    Ministers say they are determined to tackle the root causes of disadvantage and make work pay.

  9. Background: Remove two-child benefit cap, bishops urge ministers

    The changes mean tens of thousands of children are not eligible for benefit payments, says the letter
    Image caption: The changes mean tens of thousands of children are not eligible for benefit payments, says the letter

    Sixty Church of England bishops along with leaders of other religious groups, are urging ministers to rethink the two-child benefits cap.

    In a letter to the Times, they say the policy is likely to tip an extra 200,000 children into poverty.

    Changes limiting some benefits to the first two children in a family came into effect last year.

    The government says parents on benefits should face the same financial choices as those in work.

    Read more here.

  10. 'I am not oblivious to people who are incredibly vulnerable'

    The committee resumes.

    Esther McVey

    "I am not oblivious to people who are incredibly vulnerable or who are in need," the work and pensions secretary says.

    Referring to the disruption from the audience, she says it is clear the gentleman felt strongly that something that needed to be said about the case of a vulnerable person.

    Ms McVey adds that £200bn per year is spent by the DWP to ensure it reaches out to the most vulnerable people.

  11. Call for apology leads to shouting and suspension of committee

    SNP MSP Ben Macpherson
    Image caption: SNP MSP Ben Macpherson calls for an apology for impact of welfare reforms

    SNP MSP Ben Macpherson says he has had constituents cry in front of him over issues around UC and he says it is a "cynical and critical system".

    Mr Macpherson says he wants to give the minister the opportunity to apologise to those who have suffered due to welfare reform..

    The aim of Universal Credit is that it is a supportive system, the minister insists.

    The committee has to suspend after shouting from the audience disrupts the session.

  12. SNP MSP claims there is a 'push back' against devolution

    SNP MSP Ben Macpherson
    Image caption: SNP MSP Ben Macpherson

    Having work coaches signpost people to appropriate support has been "revolutionary", Ms McVey claims.

    SNP MSP Ben Macpherson raises concerns about the lack of flexibility around UC.

    "There seems to be a continual push back from the DWP to enabling social security devolution to happen," he suggests.

    There is no push back, states Ms McVey.

    The UK minister argues flexibilities exist and extra powers for Scotland to add benefits or create new ones are part of this.

  13. UK government not looking at automatic split payments

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin asks about the introduction of flexibilities to be introduced by the Scottish government and Ms McVey says there has been good collaborative work on this between the governments.

    Denise Horsfall from the DWP says the process has been positive and the customers understand the choices they have over more frequent payments or having direct payments to landlords.

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin
    Image caption: Labour MSP Mark Griffin

    Mr Griffin asks about automatic split payments, citing those who suffer domestic abuse.

    He says the last thing anyone wants to see is a social security system that supports financial domestic abuse and asks if the minister supports split payments to address this.

    Ms McVey says she is not looking for automatic split payments, but says where people do need a split payment due to domestic abuse that will happen.

    The benefit is for the needs of the household and the family, she says.

  14. What is Universal Credit - and what's the problem?

    Job Centre Plus

    Universal credit has proved controversial almost from the beginning, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends and administrative problems.

    It is being rolled out across the country.

    But what is it?

    Universal credit is a new benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment:

    • income support
    • income-based jobseeker's allowance
    • income-related employment and support allowance
    • housing benefit
    • child tax credit
    • working tax credit

    Read more here.

  15. Tory MSP asks about requests to delay devolution of powers

    Tory MSP Adam Tomkins
    Image caption: Tory MSP Adam Tomkins

    Tory MSP Adam Tomkins asks about requests to delay the transfer of some welfare powers to the Scottish government, particularly those relating to disability benefits.

    Ms McVey says she is unwilling to go into the details of private meetings.

    However, she adds that more information must be provided by the Scottish government on how it will use the powers.

    Mary Pattison says "everything is on track" to devolve the next phase of benefits but agrees more information is required to ensure the DWP can support the Scottish government.

  16. Background: 'Lack of trust' in benefits systems

    Motability scooter

    Failings in disability benefits assessments - including claimants being asked when they had "caught" Down's syndrome - have led to a "pervasive lack of trust" in the system, MPs said last month.

    The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said reports by private contractors for the two main disability benefits, PIPs and ESA, were "riddled with errors".

    And it said contractors "universally missed" the set performance targets.

    The Scottish government has repeatedly emphasises its desire to place people at the heart of the new social security system to increase trust.

    Read more here.