Partners from the Clydebank Independent Resource Centre visited the University on Friday the 21st of November to offer a Question and Answer session to the Year 2 Social Policy students. The panel members were:
- Mary Collins, the Centre’s Co-ordinator
- Danny McCafferty, the Centre’s Chair
- Kirsty Cullen, the Debt and Money Advice Worker
- Margaret Sim, the Statistical Information Worker.
Issues under discussion ranged from queries about particular benefits (e.g., the coming switchover from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payment), to questions about the wider political issue of whether welfare policy and organisation should be devolved to Scotland and what the benefits of this might be. The panel members provided an interesting explanation of the role of the Centre as a campaigning organisation as well as an advice and support body.
More specifically, students were interested in finding out about the use of sanctions against benefits claimants and whether these were related to the proliferation of food banks and unmanageable debt. They also questioned the panel on the reported difficulties in claiming the Personal Independence Payment and the long waits for assessment that claimants are facing. A further query concerned the views of the panel on Work Capability Assessments carried out by ATOS, including discussion of allegations (e.g., made by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme and others) that ATOS assessors worked to targets in finding claimants fit for work. Students were also interested in the extent to which the Centre was successful in helping clients to win appeals at tribunals.
The panel members provided very full answers to the questions raised, engaged well with the students in discussion, and provided a considerable amount of background information to the issues under discussion.
Students were keen to ask relevant questions, engaged well with the panel members, and were clearly enthused by the knowledge, experience and obvious dedication of the team. Students gained a lot from the session which will stand them in good stead both with their University studies and also when they are ready to enter the field of employment – and of course in their engagement with the contemporary issues in our society.