News In Focus
Social Security Bill begins Holyrood journey
The bill to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
Eleven benefits devolved under the Scotland Act 2016, along with top-up powers in relation to reserved benefits, are covered by the Social Security (Scotland) Bill.
Section 1 of the bill sets out "the Scottish social security principles". These include that social security is an investment in the people of Scotland; that social security is itself a human right and essential to the realisation of other human rights; and that respect for the dignity of individuals is to be at the heart of the system. It calls for an evidence based approach along with efficiency and value for money.
A social security charter is also to be prepared.
The bill then sets out the types of benefits to be given, and an overarching legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland, with provision for operational functions such as overpayments, fraud, error, re-determinations and appeals.
Scottish ministers will have a duty to give assistance to persons who are entitled to it. Secondary legislation will provide detail on what assistance will be available and how the system will work. The legislation is expected to come into force within the current Parliamentary term.
The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be an increased carer’s allowance, followed by the "Best Start" grant (replacing the Sure Start maternity grant) and the funeral expense assistance from summer 2019.
Benefits being devolved are:
- Disability living allowance
- Personal independence payment
- Attendance allowance
- Severe disablement allowance
- Industrial injuries disablement benefit
- Carers allowance
- Sure Start maternity grant
- Funeral expenses
- Cold weather payments and winter fuel payments
- Discretionary housing payments
- Some powers in relation to universal credit, such as splitting payments between household members.
The devolved benefits, totalling around £2.9bn of annual payments, will be delivered directly by the new social security agency. Discretionary Housing Payments will be delivered by local authorities.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said the bill showed it was possible to create a fairer and more just society. She commented: “I believe strongly that everyone has a right to social security – so much so that I have put these principles on the very first page of this bill.
“And these principles are embedded in our approach throughout – whether it is how entitlement to benefits is determined, a more just review and appeals system, or our decision to remove the private sector from disability benefit assessments.
“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.
“I look forward to working with colleagues across the Chamber, the Expert Advisory Group 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.”
Click here to access the bill and related papers.