Hopes punitive welfare cuts will end as Scots social security system is introduced

Jeane freeman

Jeane Freeman 

First payments from new agency will be made in 2018 

21st June 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Historic legislation establishing Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament today (21 June) promising a “fairer and more just society.”

The social security (Scotland) bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.

It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a carer’s allowance supplement. 

Publishing the bill, social security minister Jeane Freeman said it represented a significant milestone in the process of transferring these social security powers safely and securely.

Freeman said: “Dignity and respect is at the heart of our social security policy – a marked contrast to the approach that the current UK government is taking, as their unjust welfare cuts continue to cause misery, push more people into poverty and attract international criticism.

Unjust welfare cuts continue to cause misery and push more people into poverty - Jeane Freeman

“I look forward to working with colleagues across the chamber, the expert advisory groups and our experience panels to make choices that work for Scotland, to reinstate fairness into the social security system and to listen to people throughout the process.”

The bill sets out a legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland, making provision for operational functions such as overpayments, fraud, error, re-determinations and appeals. 

It places a duty on the Scottish ministers to give assistance to people who are entitled to help and provides a brief description of each type of assistance that Scottish ministers will give.

John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "We know that delivering social security is difficult and incredibly complex and there remains plenty of issues to navigate – not least how the new Scottish system operates in tandem with the UK system and the farcical roll-out of Universal Credit.

“With the right support and by listening to service users and third sector organisations, solutions can be found and we can realise the ambition of providing a service with dignity, fairness and respect at its core.” 

Secondary legislation will provide detail on what assistance will be available and how the system will work. This will follow once the bill has been agreed by the parliament. The legislation is expected to come into force within the current parliamentary term.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said the bill was a starting block in thinking about what social security in Scotland should look like. 

He added: "As this legislation is turned into real benefits, we will be working with our members and activists to ensure that the principles are made real and that we have a Scottish social security system that genuinely delivers dignity for all."

The first social security payments will be delivered by 2018 with increased carer’s allowance, followed by the best start grant and funeral expense assistance from summer 2019.