Scotland’s Social Security System Takes Shape

‘Social security is a human right’


Scotland’s Social Security System took another step forward on Thursday 19th April as it further develops how it can support people when they most need it.

It is proposed to extend the right to independent advocacy  for anyone who, because of a disability, needs additional support to engage fully with the Scottish social security system. This will remove a significant barrier and allow those needing support to be able to access the system.

Chris Creegan,  Chief Executive of the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability  said:

“Independent advocacy has an important role alongside a suite of practical measures including accessible information, inclusive communication, effective signposting and the ability to be accompanied by a supporter. This approach will help to embed a culture of dignity and respect in the new agency from the start.”

The Social Security Scotland (Bill) will reach stage 3 of its Scottish Parliamentary process on Wednesday 25th April. The whole approach to social security will change with the passing of this Bill as it asserts that ‘social security is a human right’.

The Foundations: 7  Principles of Scotland’s New Social Security System

  1. social security is an investment in the people of Scotland
  2. social security is a human right, and essential to the realisation of other human rights
  3. the social security system has respect for the dignity of individuals at its heart
  4. Ministers have a role in ensuring that people are given what they are eligible for under the Scottish social security system
  5. the system is designed with the people of Scotland on the basis of evidence
  6. opportunities are sought to continuously improve the Scottish social security system, putting the needs of those needing assistance first
  7. the system is efficient and delivers value for money.

Embedded in the new system is that payments will rise in real terms: future proofing them. This means that there is a commitment to have annual rises in Disability and Employment-Injury Assistance and to Carer’s Assistance.

Jeane Freeman, Social Security Minister in the Scottish Government who is steering the legislation through the Scottish Parliament said:

Jeane Freeman“In Scotland, 600,000 people are in receipt of disability benefits and I want to ensure they hold their real terms value. In addition I also brought forward amendments to ensure the value of all devolved social security benefits was reviewed every year.

“We have always been clear we will support carers and our guarantee to increase Carer’s Allowance by 13% to bring it into line with UK Jobseeker’s Allowance will be introduced this summer and backdated to April. This is an investment of more than £30 million to support carers, in addition to the new rights introduced under the 2016 Carers (Scotland) Act, and the new Young Carer Grant announced by the First Minister last year.”

There are 11 benefits devolved to Scotland as part of the Scotland Act (2016).

Benefits which are the responsibility of Scotland’s new social security system

  1. Ill Health and Disability Benefits:Disability Living Allowance
  2. Personal Independence Payment
  3. Attendance Allowance
  4. Severe Disablement Allowance
  5. Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  6. Carers Allowance
  7. Sure Start Maternity Grant (replaced by the Best Start Grant)
  8. Funeral Expenses
  9. Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
  10. Discretionary Housing Payments
  11. Some powers in relation to Universal Credit (e.g. the ability to split payments between household members)

The UK Government system will still control the following benefits:

  1. Universal Credit, which replaces:Jobseeker’s Allowance
  2. Employment Support Allowance
  3. Income Support
  4. Working Tax Credits
  5. Child Tax Credits
  6. Housing Benefit
  7. Contributory Job Seeker’s Allowance
  8. Contributory Employment Support Allowance
  9. Child Benefit
  10. Maternity Allowance
  11. State Pension
  12. Pension Credit
  13. Bereavement benefits:Bereavement Allowance
  14. Bereavement Payment
  15. Widowed Parents Allowance

Scotland will be able to ‘top up’ benefits from the 15 listed that are still UK run. It can also create new benefits except for:”old age pensions or where there is a connection to a matter which remains reserved (such as child support maintenance or reserved aspects of employment support).” 

social security Scotland

photo Scot Gov

Scotland’s system will be held to account by an independent body: A Scottish Commission on Social Security.

Agreement has also been reached with local authorities across Scotland on the delivery of the social security agency which will be located in council buildings.

1,900 new jobs will be created with the new agency.

Aberdeenshire councillor Alison Evison,who is President of the local authority body COSLA said:

“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.”

Social Security

Photo Scot Gov

The development of Scotland’s new social security system has involved many consultations and much detailed research. As can be seen it has limited scope in that it will have no control over the major welfare benefits which will still be set by the UK wide system. It can use a ‘top up’ to increase some of these benefits but the financing of that would come out of Scotland’s allocated funding from the UK Government.

What is significant about the new system is that it has been developed in Scotland, for Scotland and in its heart is “social security is a human right“. This may be a limited step forward but it is in the right direction and gives us a tantalising glimpse of what could be developed in a Scotland that made all its own decisions.

Watch: Jeane Freeman responds to Social Security stage one report – BSL translation

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


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