Housing bodies call for a Scottish welfare system

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Social landlords say full control of welfare system must be given to Scots 

6th November 2014 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Scotland’s social landlords are calling on the Smith Commission to devolve all aspects of the welfare system, with the full fiscal and tax powers needed to fund it.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has joined with the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) to make the case to the Smith Commission for the Scottish Parliament to have full control over welfare to tackle poverty in Scotland.

They are also calling on Westminster to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit in Scotland while the commission deliberates.

Mary Taylor, SFHA chief executive, said: “In our submission we argue that if it is serious about giving Scotland substantive new powers to tackle poverty and inequality, then it must devolve the welfare system, with the tax and fiscal powers to go with it.

“We do not want to end up with a situation like Northern Ireland where the Northern Irish Assembly has responsibility without power.

“If the Scottish Parliament is going to be able to fully tackle issues of poverty – ranging from long-term unemployment and child poverty to disability and fuel poverty – then the Smith Commission members must be bold and recognise that this can only be done by devolving powers over the welfare system with the financial levers to run it properly.”

The Smith Commission members must be bold - Mary Taylor

The bodies argue that the bedroom tax was a high profile example of the problems created when a policy area such as housing is devolved, but the funding - housing benefit and tax allowance - is reserved to Westminster.

David Bookbinder, director of GWSF, added: "With the very strong opposition to the bedroom tax in Scotland, there's probably an assumption in some quarters that if there is no devolution of the wider social security system, Scotland would happily take receipt of powers over housing benefit alone.

"But the capacity to create a fairer system would be severely limited if housing benefit is all we had control over.

“If Scotland is to have genuine options for reform, it needs the flexibility and scope for trade offs which will come with power over the full system of social security benefits."