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 Scottish Government has launched their new social security system, the first new Scottish public service since devolution. The system will be based on dignity and respect, and we have confirmed that there will be no contracting with the private sector in our assessment model.
Our 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.
Social Security Scotland made its first payments in September 2018, delivering the Carer’s Allowance Supplement. This increases the Carer’s Allowance by 13% and is an investment of more than £30 million a year to support carers in Scotland.
This will be followed by the Best Start Grant, delivering the first Best Start Grant payments before Christmas – 6 months earlier than planned – helping parents on low incomes with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of later children, to buy the pram or other big essentials they need.
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.