Jeane Freeman accuses the DWP of putting Scotland “bottom of their to-do list”

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 9 June 2018 in News

Jeane Freeman promised to create a new system “founded upon our unshakeable commitment to human rights and grounded in the principles of dignity, fairness and respect”

Jeane Freeman has accused the Department of Work and Pensions of putting Scotland at “the bottom of their to-do list”, with the Social Security Minister claiming the UK Government has impeded progress in building a new Scottish social security system.

Speaking at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, Freeman promised to create a new system “founded upon our unshakeable commitment to human rights and grounded in the principles of dignity, fairness and respect”.

But the Social Security Minister hit out at the DWP, saying “it’s time Esther McVey in the DWP stepped up, matched our commitment and stopped standing in our way”.

The 2016 Scotland Act handed the Scottish Government new devolved powers over social security, with control of 11 benefits transferred from the DWP to Holyrood.

The new powers, part of the latest round of devolution, means the Scottish Parliament has control of welfare payments worth about £3bn per year.

Freeman said: “The Tories announced the introduction of Universal Credit in 2010, to be implemented within four years with one million new claimants, with everyone transferred by 2017. They’ve pushed that deadline back year after year, until they finally admitted it would take them until 2022. Twelve years with all the apparatus of an existing system, a whole department and staff at their disposal. Twelve years. Frankly, they couldn’t run a bath.

“With the limited powers we have in Scotland, in less than two years, and starting from scratch, we have the legislation in place. A new public service that has started recruiting for the 1,900 new jobs. From this summer we will start delivering our first benefits – the 13 per cent increase to Carer’s Allowance.

“But we do not have all of the powers over that social security support. And because we can’t take over the whole system and start fixing it from the inside, we have to rely on the DWP to provide the information, the data, the security codes and the processes we need at each and every step of the way. So it frustrates me hugely that the DWP are just not keeping up with us. We’re setting the pace and they aren’t matching it. Scotland comes bottom of their to-do list.

“They have reneged on agreements and pushed back on agreed dates to give us what we need to take our next steps. It’s time Esther McVey in the DWP stepped up, matched our commitment and stopped standing in our way.”

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