Significant overhaul required of Scotland’s welfare system, finds Committee

14.12.2015

Claimants should be treated with dignity and respect by the social security system, according to a report published today (14 December) by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.  However, a huge cultural shift will be required if Scotland is to create a better Scottish welfare system.

The Committee’s report calls for a significant overhaul of the current approach and suggests that the provision of social security in Scotland should be about preserving the dignity and respect of those using it, similar to the way people are normally treated if they need to use the NHS. To implement this strong leadership will be required from both the Department of Work and Pensions and the Scottish Government.

MSPs have been examining proposals for the devolution of social security in parallel to the UK Parliament’s consideration of the Scotland Bill. The Committee was looking at how proposed new powers over welfare could be used to deliver a better system of social security in Scotland. 

The report includes suggestions for the Scottish Government in its designing of a new system of social security in Scotland.

Key recommendations include:

  • The introduction of long-term Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment awards for those with severe, long-term disability or illness.
  • The Committee supports the Scottish Government’s proposed increase in Carer’s Allowance to at least the amount paid in Jobseekers Allowance.
  • The housing element of Universal Credit should be paid fortnightly, direct to landlords.

The Committee has also called for the Scottish Government to use the new powers to immediately abolish the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ (under-occupancy charge).  

Hugh Henry MSP, Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee, said –  

“For three years, our committee has heard evidence of the devastating impact of welfare reform, from the ever-growing reliance on food banks to working parents having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. 

“Creating a better social security system for Scotland will probably be one of the biggest tasks facing Scotland over the next decade and it’s important that we get it right. This is not about party politics but people.”

Clare Adamson MSP, Deputy Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee, said –  

“We need to move away from the negative stereotyping of benefits recipients as ‘skivers’ and design a system of social security that places the dignity and human rights of service users at its heart. 

“Our report underlines the key principles that we consider should be included in the delivery of social security in Scotland.”

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