Scotland to create a fairer social security system

Scottish parly cropped

​Charities and voluntary groups take the lead in creating a new, more compassionate social security system for Scotland

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27th October 2015 by Graham Martin 2 Comments

Scotland's social security system will be used to promote fairness and destigmatise people claiming benefits, according to a Scottish Government report. 

Charities and voluntary groups made a significant contribution to a Scottish Government paper on how new, devolved social security powers will be administered.

More than 70 organisations working with children, carers, disabled people, ethnic minority representative groups and older people have taken part in discussions around the new powers.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organsations (SCVO) collated the responses of many in the third sector, and these recommendations have been accepted by the government.

A wide range of responses were given on what could be done with the new powers – and the consistent view is that that Scotland need to take a fairer approach, one that does not stigmatise or punish people who receive benefits.

The Scottish Government will now publish a further paper by the end of the year setting out its outline vision for social security in Scotland.

The third sector is rooted in people’s lives so it’s ideally placed to see how new powers are used for the greater good

John Downie, director of public affairs at SCVO, said: “This is a great success for the many third sector organisations of all shapes and sizes who have been closely engaging with the Scottish Government on how to make sure fairness sits at the heart of Scotland’s new approach to social security.

“The third sector is rooted in people’s lives and in local communities across the country, so it’s ideally placed to see how newly transferred powers might be used for the greater good.

“We presented a strong message to the Scottish Government that we must use the new powers to build a fairer and stronger system which supports people when they need it most. It’s great to see that they listened and we look forward to seeing these principles be turned into practice.”  

Social justice secretary Alex Neil said the contribution of Scotland’s third sector ensured Scotland’s new social security system will treat people with respect and dignity.

He said: “The new social security powers are part of the conversation on what will make a fairer Scotland. This feedback is helping us develop our own social security system which we will ensure treats individuals with respect and removes the barriers that cause confusion and anxiety for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The new system will have at its heart a set of principles and values. This will include ensuring people are treated with respect and dignity when applying for, being assessed for, and receiving disability-related benefits."

Neil said the Scottish Government would create a fairer system that the current UK-wide approach. 

“Through the current system many people, including carers, young people, families and those who can’t work because of disabilities or mental health, have all faced cuts and discrimination as a result of the UK government welfare reform programme."

Social security: the sector's view. Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland

Scotland to create a fairer social security system

Inclusion Scotland welcomed the opportunity that was provided by SCVO to speak directly to some of the key Scottish Government officials who will be involved in shaping Scotland’s new social security system.

It’s great that the legacy of the independence referendum seems to be a greater willingness to engage with the third sector and listen to our views – of course only time will tell whether we have actually been heard.

The key message that we wanted to convey to officials was that the cumulative impact of past and current welfare cuts (definitely not reforms) has been devastating for disabled people and their families and that a new approach is needed.

It’s not just that disabled people should be treated with dignity and respect, it’s that those administering the benefits system need to re-discover their own humanity and stop treating disabled people and other claimants as suspected criminals.

Disabled people are being assessed to death at present – literally in the case of the Work Capability Assessment – with assessments to test their employability, en​titlement to the Personal Independence Payment, their care needs and whether they qualify for a Blue Badge. Maybe we need to move away from distrusting disabled people and begin to once again believe that they are the best judges of their own needs.

Social security: the sector's view. Rob Gowans, Citizen's Advice Scotland

Scotland to create a fairer social security system

Benefits issues are bread-and-butter for the Citizens Advice service. Last year alone, Scotland’s Citizen’s Advice Bureaux network advised people on 220,000 new issues related to social security.

It is by quite a large margin the most common type of problem we see and this has increased sharply since the UK government’s welfare reforms began. With a further £12 billion of cuts to benefits and tax credits to come, we can expect to see this grow larger.

Although not devolving the social security system in full, powers over disability, carers and funeral payments and certain tweaks to Universal Credit present a golden opportunity to create a Scottish social security safety net that is fair, equal and responsive to people’s needs.

The Scottish Government has taken a good approach to deciding how the new powers will be used, consulting widely with citizens and organisations.

Particularly welcome is its commitment to speak to Scots who claim existing benefits. It knows better than anyone how the system does – or doesn’t – work for them.

At Citizens Advice Scotland we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’ve spent the summer speaking to clients and advisers who deal with these issues every day to find out what they need from a Scottish social security safety net. In the next few weeks we’ll be publishing the results and working with the Scottish Government to make this shared vision a reality.

27th October 2015 by Helena

Not sure which 'tweaks' to Universal Credit, the Scottish government are allowed to make. But here is the link to powers potentially being devolved. Does anyone know when these powers are to be fully transferred?http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0047/00479305.pdf

28th October 2015 by Rose Burn

The Scotland Bill is going through Parliament just now. The aim is for the powers over income tax to be transferred soon so that Holyrood could decide to raise or lower tax rates by April 2016. I assume therefore that the new welfare powers would be available during next year too. The issue of course is how to pay for them!