New Scottish social security system passes first parliamentary hurdle

Written by Tom Freeman on 20 December 2017 in News

Scottish welfare system will be coordinated with councils from next year

Jeane Freeman - Scottish Parliament

MSPs have voted through the general principles of Scotland’s new social security system.

The introduction of the first uniquely Scottish welfare benefits is set to start next year – Carers Allowance Supplement, to be followed by Best Start Grant, and Funeral Expenses Assistance.

MSPs also agreed that more could be done to encourage people to claim what benefits they are entitled to.

The legislation follows the devolution of 11 benefits and some social security spend to Scotland.

Social Security minister Jeane Freeman welcomed the “spirit of agreement” in the chamber.

“We are, together, engaged in a complex and complicated task—to ensure that we build a rights-based social security system for Scotland that not only delivers the 11 devolved benefits safely and securely but does so true to the principles that we have set out, and works effectively alongside the United Kingdom system. It is complex and it is complicated, but it is also a golden opportunity,” she said.

“The prize is a social security system that is there to support the people who need it, when they need it, for decades to come; a new public service that embodies the social contract between the individual and the state, founded on the shared recognition that we all contribute in different ways and that it is right that the state should provide at those times when we are in need.”

Scottish Conservative Adam Tomkins questioned why the bill does not lay out what people will be entitled to and raised concerns about the cost of the new system.

“Of course we want dignity, fairness and respect to be at the heart of that system, but we should treat the taxpayers who pay for all of that with dignity, fairness and respect,” he said.

Labour and the Scottish Greens pledged to amend the bill in its next stage, including strengthening the legal duties on agencies and preventing private companies from providing parts of the system.

Green MSP Alison Johnson said: “We have the opportunity to restore dignity and respect to our social security system. We have the opportunity to reclaim the idea that when we provide a good reliable income for the most vulnerable people in society, everyone benefits. The bill makes a reasonable start towards those goals, but there is much more to be done.”

An agreement with local authority umbrella body COSLA to host the new agency in council buildings across Scotland.

President Alison Evison said:“The devolution of elements of social security to Scotland provides a significant opportunity to ensure services to claim essential support are easily accessible.

“This agreement lays down the principles around planning these services – Scottish and local government will work together to ensure face-to-face support is embedded in communities across Scotland in ways which complement existing services and support.

“Local government, along with our community planning partners, understands what is needed in the communities we serve across Scotland – it is right that this knowledge and expertise contributes to how things are developed so those who need assistance claiming support can access it.”

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