What plans do the SNP have to use new powers around social security?
Under the Scotland Act 2016, some social security powers will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. These powers will account for around 15 per cent of the total Scottish benefits bill. The majority of the devolved benefits will be delivered directly by Scotland’s new social security agency. Discretionary Housing Payments and the Scottish Welfare Fund will continue to be delivered by local authorities. The new social security agency will also provide face-to-face pre-claims advice and support locally, and we will aim to work in places people already visit where possible.
We are building a system based on dignity and respect. We have confirmed that there will be no contracting with the private sector in our assessment model. We will be also guided by the personal experience of people through our Experience Panels and the expertise of our Expert Advisory Group on Disability and Carers’ Benefits.
The Scottish Government has introduced a Social Security Bill to the Scottish Parliament, which sets out the overarching legislative framework for administration of social security in Scotland. More information is available here.
From summer 2018, the first social security payments to be delivered by our new Social Security Agency will be the increased Carer’s Allowance - to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance. This will be followed by the Best Start Grant, to help low income families meet essential costs of looking after children up to school age, and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.
The SNP government also intends to use the new powers over Universal Credit to benefit people in Scotland, and between 650,000 and 700,000 households will benefit from those planned reforms. The changes will mean those on Universal Credit in Scotland can opt to be paid twice monthly and rent can be paid direct to landlords, making it easier for people to manage their money.
We will also guarantee that disability benefits will remain universal and will not be means tested. We will reform the assessment procedures for disability benefits to end the unnecessary stress caused to applicants. Importantly for thousands of people, 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.
We have extended the Scottish Welfare Fund on an interim basis to ensure those young people who will be excluded from financial support by the UK Government will still be able to receive assistance with housing costs, due to the removal of Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds by the UK Government.
We already fully mitigate the Bedroom Tax, and as soon as we have the necessary powers we will effectively abolish it.