Social security bill fails to ban hated private contractors

Jeane freeman  wide

Social security bill flawed as it fails to legislate on promises for a fairer system 

5th July 2017 by Robert Armour 2 Comments

A "fatal flaw" in Scotland’s social security bill means legislation won’t ban private contractors from undertaking hated disability assessments.  

Jeane Freeman, the Scottish Government minister in charge of the country’s new social security system, has failed to back up her much-vaunted pledge to outlaw companies such as Atos and Capita undertaking the tests.

All disabled people have to undertake assessements to determine whether they qualify for benefits under the UK government's welfare reform agenda. 

But Labour said the bill falls short on a series of promises, not least of which was a landmark pledge to use legislation to ban private contractors. 

Mark Griffin Labour social security spokesperson said the SNP government was determined to do the “bare minimum” with the new powers.

He now plans to table amendments to ensure a ban of private sector contractors is in the bill, along with inflation rises and bolder benefit powers.

Griffin said: “Labour pressure forced SNP ministers to commit to ban the private sector from disability assessments – but again this is missing from the bill.

 “And there is nothing in the SNP’s draft bill which allows for the creation of new devolved benefits. The chance to reshape our social security system is not being taken.

 “As it stands this bill sums up the SNP’s entire approach to government – refuse to use the powers to deliver radical change and hope no one notices.”

But the Scottish Government said legislation wouldn’t be needed to ban private firms.

When first announced, Freeman claimed the move underpinned the “fairer more humane” welfare system promised by the Scottish Government.

The chance to reshape our social security system is not being taken - Mark Griffin

Gail Tierney, who runs North Ayrshire Carers Forum, said enshrining the promise to ban private firms from assessments was “essential”.

“It’s a fatal flaw,” she said. “While our members are placing a lot of hope in the new system, there is now no guarantee that the Scottish Government will deliver on a promise that it went to great pains to publicise among the disabled and carer communities.

“Without that guarantee, it leaves disabled people and their carers unsure and very uncertain as to how the new social security system will work in practice. It’s a worry.”

Disability groups previously criticised the Scottish Government for allowing the DWP to continue to undertake the assessments despite having the power to halt them.

It means the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be in control of the regime until the Scottish system is up and running around 2019.

In response to Labour's criticism, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “This shows a lack of understanding of how the bill works.

“We have made clear our commitment to ending the private sector’s role in the UK government’s discredited disability assessment process, and do not require powers in the bill to enable this.”

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6th July 2017 by Richard

Bizarre that Labour are taking the credit here for pushing the SNP to pledge no private contractors would be involved, given it was the Scottish Greens who did the work. https://greens.scot/news/make-social-security-user-friendly-so-people-get-what-they-re-entitled-to

7th July 2017 by RealFreedom

The bill also fails to ban the hated SCVO from grassing up benefit claimants to the DWP when claimants are not keen on working in one of SCVO member charity shops, leading to unfair benefit sanctions. SCVO = handmaiden of benefit sanctions in Scotland.