We believe that social security is an investment in the people of Scotland. For the SNP, the process of how we deliver benefits is as important as what the benefits will do.
That is why we are committed to having a social security system in Scotland that is fair and puts respect and dignity at its heart. Putting people at the centre of that system is key to ensuring we create a fairer Scotland.
Under the Scotland Bill, limited new powers over social security will be transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. While these powers will mean that only 15 per cent of welfare spending is decided here in Scotland, we are determined to use them to transform the service people receive.
As part of our manifesto for government we will unveil plans for a social security system that will transform the process of applying for disability benefits for the better.
The Tories’ whole approach in power has been to stigmatise and intimidate the people who rely on benefits, including the vulnerable, disabled people, and those on low incomes in an attempt to save money without care for the human cost.
We reject the Tory idea that stigmatises welfare claimants as scroungers. Any of us could be faced with a disability or illness and many of us will need – or have family and friends who will need – to access these benefits at some point in our lives. We all deserve to know that our social security system is there for us if we need it.
Under the Tories, disabled people have often faced a miserable and demeaning bureaucracy when they’ve applied for disability benefits – benefits that many depend upon to meet the costs of long-term conditions and disabilities.
The SNP will guarantee that disability benefits will remain universal and will not be means tested. We will also scrap the rule that sees income cut from families of disabled children if they are in hospital for more than 84 days.
With our new powers we will reform the assessment procedures for disability benefits to end the unnecessary stress caused to applicants. We will set clear timescales for conducting assessments and making decisions with a transparent and accessible appeals process. Importantly for thousands, an SNP government will stop the revolving door of assessments by introducing long-term awards for those with existing conditions that are unlikely to change.
The SNP in power will also increase Carer’s Allowance to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance, giving carers an extra £600 each year.
We will take forward these commitments, as part of our plans to deliver a fairer approach to social security, through a Social Security Bill to be introduced in the first year of a new SNP government.
And we will continue to call for the Scottish Parliament to have full control over all social security benefits, so that we can deliver a system that is tailored to the needs of all the people of Scotland.
Alex Neil is Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners Rights